Charming As a Verb

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Sept. 2020. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062824141.
Gr 9 Up–Henri Haltiwanger is a go-getter. He’s created a dog-walking business disguised as a much larger corporation to lure rich New York clients into trusting him with their precious pooches. Henri hopes this hustle will help him achieve his, and his father’s, dream of getting into Columbia University. When Corrine Troy, Henri’s socially awkward neighbor and classmate, discovers his enterprise, she blackmails him into helping her improve her social standings so that she will look better on her application to Princeton. What happens will change the trajectory of their lives. Philippe’s book touches on racial and class struggles experienced by students as they apply to college. Henri is a first-generation American born of Haitian immigrant parents. Corrine is a dark-skinned African American girl, while Henri’s best friend was adopted from China by Jewish American parents. While racial struggles are part of the book, it is not the entire focus. Henri deals with moral and ethical questions as he tries to decide how far he is willing to go to get into his dream college and what matters most to him. A budding romance between Henri and Corrine is the icing on a rich and decadent cake.
VERDICT A racially diverse cast of characters with authentic voices and realistic struggles makes this a must-have for all YA collections.

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