FICTION

500 Words or Less

384p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534410442.
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Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Nic Chen is Chinese and white, and struggling with issues of race, class, and gender double standards in the affluent community of Meydenbauer. This is a town where Ivy League acceptance letters are a minimal expectation, and the microaggressions experienced by people of color are eagerly swept under the rug to comfort the sensibilities of white elites. After cheating on her boyfriend, Nic is a social outcast with only her best friend, Kitty, taking her side. Nic's talent for writing serves as a lifeline to redeem her. The catch: she must write winning college admissions letters for her classmates. The price: $300 and fragments of her moral compass. Nic is able to take the lived experiences of her classmates and write essays in 500 words or less that speak to something deeper in the human spirit. As she churns out essays, she has to search her own soul as well as those of her friends. It's not the money she craves, but a very specific void that she's trying to fill. This compelling novel in verse encourages deep thought and conversation.
VERDICT Fans of Perfect by Ellen Hopkins will devour this timely and addictive read.

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