Fence: Striking Distance

Little, Brown. Sept. 2020. 368p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780316456678.
Gr 9 Up–Welcome to Kings Row, where the only thing more exciting than fencing are the boys’ funny antics while Coach tries to get them to become an actual team. Austin and Harvard are entering an interesting period in their lifelong friendship (complete with “dating lessons”), Seiji is learning all about pranks and maybe what being a friend means, Eugene is bringing his weightlifting bros around, and Nicholas is just really confused all the time. All of these things build on each other, and humor and romance ensue. In this easy-to-read novel based on the graphic novel series, fans will enjoy revisiting their favorite fencers—each chapter is told from a different boy’s perspective, along with a digital illustration of that character. This helps to better show the variety of ethnicities represented, including Black, white, and Japanese American. Brennan plops the reader into the “Fence” universe without a backward look and darts forward with admirable speed; new readers may be slightly lost at first, but will quickly be swept up in the characters’ charisma. Heavier subjects are lightly touched upon (racism and classist bullying), but multiple gay characters are widely accepted, free of any drama. In this first installment of a series, romance and comedy compete for top billing in an entertaining read that will please readers looking for lighter fare.
VERDICT A solid buy where the graphic novel series is popular, or for libraries looking for a fun book to bump up their LGBTQ+ selections.

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