cover image War and Speech

War and Speech

Don Zolidis. Little, Brown, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-368-01007-8

High schooler Sydney Williams is a new student at Eaganville, a nunnery-housed arts school in Minnesota, where she’s starting over following her father’s imprisonment and her parents’ divorce. After a verbal altercation in her very first class, Sydney’s new friends—considered losers for their interests in activities such as basketball, drama, and improv—explain the school’s hierarchy, which is ruled by varsity speech and debate. Made up of mean-spirited, highly competitive kids and coached by a former motivational speaker who once impacted Sydney’s father, the team wins—and they don’t let anyone forget it. Humiliated by several on the squad, Sydney and her friends devise a plan to take them down: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Zolidis (The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig) writes with humor and heart, giving readers a peek into Sydney’s growth as she learns from mistakes. What makes this stand out from books with similar tropes is Zolidis’s funny, sarcastic repartee and flair for creating multifaceted characters with depth, especially the bad guys. Ages 14–up. Agent: John M. Cusick, Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management. (May)