cover image Brighter than the Moon

Brighter than the Moon

David Valdes. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0716-7

Valdes (Spin Me Right Round) thoughtfully crafts a jam-packed story about three teens learning the importance of honesty and struggling to understand their identities. Sixteen-year-old biracial (Black and white) beauty YouTuber Shani has been burned by boys before, but she thinks she’s ready to open her heart again, this time to 17-year-old artist Jonas. The only issue is that they’ve never met IRL; their friendship has blossomed exclusively through Instagram DMs and phone calls. Jonas, worried that Shani won’t accept his foster care upbringing, keeps it secret from her. Shani, sensing he’s hiding something and nervous about getting catfished, enlists her best friend, trans 17-year-old Ash, who is Indian and Cuban, to uncover the truth about Jonas. When Ash strikes up an online friendship with Jonas under the guise of commissioning art, their romantic chemistry takes them both off guard. With friendships in turmoil, the trio must maneuver their budding romances while balancing their individual struggles of self-expression. Discussions of identity and privilege occasionally become muddled amid the teens’ clashing traumas, but an overarching theme of forgiveness and lifelong discovery provides valuable insight. It’s a sweet story that positively explores the validity of online friendship and romance. Ages 12–up. Agent: Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary. (Jan.)