cover image Look on the Bright Side

Look on the Bright Side

Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann, illus. by Lily Williams. First Second, $22.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-83411-9

Collaborators Williams and Schneemann return to Hazelton High, where besties Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha, the protagonists from Go with the Flow, encounter myriad challenges as they navigate their junior year. Abby advocates to expand menstrual product access in all bathrooms because “trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary students all deserve to feel included”; Brit finds herself caught in a Darcy-and-Wickham-type love triangle with peers from her AP English class; Christine fears coming out as queer to Abby, whom she’s been crushing on; and Sasha struggles to balance her new relationship and increased schoolwork. Via the tweens’ nuanced dialogue, Williams and Schneemann craft explicitly trust-filled friendships in which the girls meet each other’s anxieties and blunders with actionable solutions and gentle but firm suggestions for accountability without judgment. Character-focused illustrations deepen the intricacies of the friends’ conversations by zeroing in on facial expressions and body language; reds and pinks effectively denote each figure’s feelings of frustration, fear, and joy during critical emotional moments. Back matter includes an authors’ note that reaffirms the creators’ commitment to reducing period stigma no matter one’s gender identity, and to “leaving the world a kinder and gentler place… by being good to the people around us.” Ages 10–14. (Oct.)

Correction: A previous version of this review misstated the book's illustrator.