Smash It!

Francina Simone. Inkyard, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-3351-4650-2
In a loose retelling of Othello, Simone (The Keeper’s Vow) follows Black high school junior Olivia Johnson as she sheds her insecurities and embarks on a Shonda Rhimes–inspired Year of Yes, embracing everything that scares her. Hoping to catalyze a bolder life, Olivia introduces a bevy of new undertakings into her routine: she auditions for the school theater department’s rap production of Othello, makes fearless new friends who help her take risks and stand up for herself, and whirls between three love interests, including her two best friends: suave jokester Dré, who is Puerto Rican, and lovelorn poet El, who is half Palestinian, half Israeli. Determined to achieve happiness whatever the cost, Olivia sometimes makes choices that hurt those around her; though she eventually apologizes, a lack of reflection causes her transformation to feel somewhat flat. Simone (The Keeper’s Vow) deftly captures the cadence of modern teenagers, however, offering gems of wisdom on sexuality, responsibility, family, and love: “My love story isn’t tragic, and it’s not about a boy. It’s about me loving me.” Though the premise is familiar, Simone crafts an entertaining and inclusive cast to accompany Olivia through the peaks and valleys of friendship, romance, and self-love. Ages 13–up. Agent: Devin Ross, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/16/2020
Release date: 09/22/2020
Genre: Children's
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