Speak for Yourself

Scholastic. Jun. 2021. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338660401.
Gr 7 Up–High school junior Skylar has been making apps and staying in her lane for as long as she can remember. Her best friend Mads handles the graphic design but is in a new relationship with Kaden, which means the friends are spending less time together. They’re all in Scholastic Exposition together, though, and this year Skylar, the captain, has big plans for the team to win ScholEx Nationals. But she has friction with teammate Zane, who recruits his debate partner, Joey, to the team. Ensue love triangle: Because Joey likes Zane, Skylar makes a matchmaking app called Requite so they can connect, but readers know that Zane is really interested in Skylar, who is clueless. Skylar’s well-crafted plans for ScholEx get muddied when Requite takes off, things with Zane and Joey fizzle out, and Skylar can’t take a hint that Zane actually likes her. Group chats, goal lists, press releases, and emails replete with coding and app-creating language give this charming romance a modern feel. Readers will enjoy the authenticity of the friendships and the crush drama as they read between the lines. A thread of Skylar’s serious migraine headaches gives some depth to her character but doesn’t meaningfully impact the plot. One protagonist is Black, and all others are cued as white; Kaden uses they/them pronouns, and there is a queer relationship.
VERDICT A unique romance choice where coding and STEM are popular topics.

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