cover image Never Meant to Meet You

Never Meant to Meet You

Alli Frank and Asha Youmans. Montlake, $12.95 trade paper (338p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3410-4

Frank and Youmans, who previously collaborated on Tiny Imperfections, develop rich, empathetic characters in a contemporary outing that’s as focused on female friendship and personal growth as it is on romance. Black kindergarten teacher Marjette Lewis always gets excited about the new school year at her Oakland, Calif., private school. Though she’s an admitted busy body, she’s determined to keep her distance from her new white, Jewish neighbor, Noa Abrams, and instead focus on herself and getting her son through 11th grade without undue interference from her ex. But when Noa’s husband dies suddenly and her bereft daughter winds up in Marjette’s class, Marjette’s resolve crumbles. She offers support—and home-cooked meals—to the Abrams family and finds unexpected kinship with Noa and possible new love with Noa’s handsome brother, Max. As these neighboring families blend, the authors do a good job exploring the common ground between African American and Jewish experiences: the characters feel like real people with racial and religious identities that inform their worldviews, but don’t define them. While Marjette’s growth is the focus, siblings Max and Noa both jump off the page as well. It’s an impressive feat sure to move romance fans and women’s fiction readers alike. Agent: Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency. (Oct.)