Going Bicoastal

Wednesday Bks. Jun. 2023. 336p. Tr $20. ISBN 9781250871640.
Gr 10 Up–Rising high school senior and proud bisexual Natalya Fox gets to choose between two options for the summer: staying with her math professor dad on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where she’s always lived, or going to Los Angeles to live with her semi-estranged high-powered businesswoman mom and intern at her PR firm. After a couple of chapters, the narrative diverges into two parallel arcs: one in which Natalya stays in New York but vows to push herself out of her comfort zone, and the other in which she spends the summer in LA. Her NYC time line sees her finally connect with the crush she keeps running into, a redheaded young woman named Elly. Natalya is whisked into her edgy punk rock world and a quick friends-to-lovers journey unfolds. In LA, she has a brief enemies-to-lovers journey with the other intern she shares a desk with, a somewhat curmudgeonly young man named Adam who moonlights at his brother’s taco truck. In each path, she finds ways to connect with her mom and also discovers a possible career. Judaism is at the center of the narrative, with weekly Shabbat dinners and Jewish comfort food playing a central role in Natalya’s life. The book ends with a choose-your-own-adventure style, offering a conclusion with Elly or with Adam based on reader preference. While the parallel time lines are innovative, they are also a bit dizzying, and the many characters can be hard to track.
VERDICT The inventive narrative devices are not entirely successful, but a fun and affirming story of a bisexual Jewish teen embraced and celebrated for both identities by her family and peers make this book a necessary purchase.

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