Amelia Westlake Was Never Here

Poppy/Little, Brown. May 2019. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316450669.
Gr 7 Up–Elite private school students Harriet Price and Will Everhart could not be more different—Harriet must constantly maintain her image as the perfect student and athlete while Will has a history of agitation and troublemaking. When they land in detention together after witnessing their swim coach’s inappropriate and sexist behavior, they start publishing cartoons under the pseudonym Amelia Westlake, exposing examples of the systemic injustice running rampant at their school. Amelia’s cartoons and other acts of protest ripple throughout the school—making other students feel uncomfortable at the minor acts of defiance, or giving them the courage to find their own voices and speak out against the power imbalances in their school. This is a funny romantic comedy that takes the “opposites attract” trope and sets it against a background of playful and subversive feminist protest reminiscent of Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, Adrienne Kisner’s Dear Rachel Maddow, or E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. What makes this novel stand out is the attention to character development and the attention paid to the various ways teens are expected to live within the boundaries created by adults.
VERDICT The variety of social pressures that Harriet and Will struggle with will resonate with readers who find themselves pulled in a dozen different directions by the expectations of parents, peers, teachers, and social norms.

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