Counting Down with You

Inkyard. May 2021. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335209979.
Gr 8 Up–High school junior Karina Ahmed always puts others’ needs before her own. She attends Pre-Med Society to please her traditional Bangladeshi Muslim parents, even though she’d rather study English at Columbia than become a doctor. When her parents leave for a month to visit family, Karina gets a much-needed break from their strict expectations. Then her English teacher asks her to tutor mysterious bad boy Ace Clyde. After a rough start, they begin to open up to each other—first as friends, and then as something more. As sparks fly, Karina realizes she might not be the only one hiding her true self under the surface. But as the days tick closer to her parents’ return, Karina’s newfound freedom feels too good to last. With support from Ace, her two best friends, and her grandmother, Karina must decide if she has the courage to face her parents and fight for the future she chooses. Despite its familiar premise, this #OwnVoices novel shines with its strong focus on family and its depiction of a healthy teen relationship. Karina’s gradual understanding of her parents and their decisions is thoroughly explored. Karina struggles with anxiety but keeps it from her family; Ace is white and affluent; side characters are diverse in race and sexuality.
VERDICT Filled with tender moments and subtle humor, this well-paced gem will have readers rooting for Karina and Ace as they stand up for themselves and for each other. A must-purchase for all teen collections.

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