cover image Say No to the Bro

Say No to the Bro

Kat Helgeson. Simon & Schuster, $17.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4814-7193-0

In her first solo novel, Helgeson (coauthor of Gena/Finn) draws a sensitive portrait of two teens who fall for each other, despite occupying different places in their school’s social strata. Ava’s father, a football coach, moves the family to his hometown for Ava’s senior year after her mother abandons the family. School quarterback Mark immediately notices and reaches out to Ava, catching her off guard (Ava doesn’t consider herself the football player type). Both teens are shocked when Ava is chosen as the “Wild Card” entry for the Prom Bowl, a fund-raiser that’s part pageant, part date auction: Mark had already hoped to take Ava to prom, and she thinks the competition is sexist. Through Ava’s reluctant participation in the event as a conflicted underdog, Helgeson deftly explores the complexities of popularity and the pressures placed on girls to perform for and please boys. Alternating first-person narratives give candid insights into the ways both teens try to do the right thing (and sometimes fall short) as they push back against systems they aren’t comfortable with. Ages 14–up. Agent: John Cusick, Folio Literary Management. (May)