Didn’t See That Coming

Delacorte. Nov. 2023. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593434017.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Kiki Siregar has always been confident, describing herself as “loud and unapologetically obnoxious.” The only time Kiki’s has to be cautious is when she’s online. Gaming is easier as a guy (Dudebro10, specifically), and she isn’t harassed and threatened by other players or punished by the game for reporting said harassment. While pretending to be a guy, Kiki has made a very real friend in another player, Sourdawg—one she hates lying to but knows she isn’t likely to meet IRL. Then Kiki’s parents transfer her to Jakarta’s top Chinese School, where Sourdawg is a student. Adjusting to the school's conservative atmosphere is harder than Kiki expected as she faces bullying, strict teachers, and students who’d rather keep their heads down than try to change the toxic environment. After helping her American cousin Sharlot navigate sexism and a rocky start with her now-boyfriend in Sutanto’s novel Well, That Was Unexpected, Kiki thinks she knows what to expect when roped into a matchmaking scheme she hopes will help her find Sourdawg. But Kiki soon realizes that with her confidence in tatters, she has to find her old self-assurance first. Chinese Indonesian Kiki is a cackle-inducing narrator with plenty of acerbic observations and snappy asides. Strong friendships at school with other female students help ground Kiki and give her the support she needs to speak out. The heaviness of Kiki’s isolation and bullying throughout are countered with the mystery of Sourdawg and tentative flirting with deskmate Liam Ng.
VERDICT A powerful trifecta of humor, romance, and feminism grounded in positive change.

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