Arden Grey

Abrams/Amulet. May 2022. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419746000.
Gr 8 Up–For Seattleite Arden Grey, viewing the world through a camera lens is easier than participating in it. Her junior year is getting rough. Her parents separate, her emotionally abusive mother leaves, and her younger brother starts coming home drunk. In addition, a new girlfriend pulls Arden’s best and only friend Jamie away. Though Arden worries about Caroline’s controlling behavior, Jamie, who is transgender, claims Arden doesn’t understand, being aro-ace. While Arden does think she’s asexual, she’s unsure about aromantic since she’s attracted to Queer Alliance leader Vanessa. Would Vanessa want a non-physical relationship, though? Maybe Arden should step out from behind the camera and finally take control of her life. The author deftly handles the main issues in Arden’s life, offering readers representation, recognition, and hope. One issue is recognizing and responding to abusive behavior, as in understanding the “power and control” wheel of bad relationships. Another is Arden’s struggle to understand her asexuality in the capricious, highly charged world of school relationships. The fear of losing friends and losing one’s importance to romantically partnered friends will ring poignantly true to ace readers. Characters are well-drawn, LGBTQIA+ representation abounds, and while Arden and Jamie are cued as white, secondary characters offer some diversity. Language and sexual references are age appropriate. An afterword discusses abusive relationships and offers resources.
VERDICT Arden’s experiences with an emotionally abusive mother, losing her best friend to a controlling partner, and understanding her own asexuality will have wide appeal for realistic fiction fans.

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