Kissing Ezra Holtz (and Other Things I Did for Science)

Sky Pony. May 2019. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510749405; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781510743694.
Gr 9 Up–When she doesn’t get into art school, Amalia Yaabez learns the hard way that things don’t always go according to plan. She is left picking up the pieces of her much-neglected academic career and is struggling to find a backup plan. Then, her psychology teacher pairs her with frustratingly smart Ezra Holtz for a semester-long project. Ezra is Amalia’s polar opposite. He’s a straitlaced future valedictorian who has his future mapped out, but Amalia begrudgingly agrees to work closely with him on the project. Sparks fly when the two decide to do an experiment to research whether love can be manufactured by science, and Amalia learns that kissing Ezra Holtz is nothing like she’d expected. This enemies-to-lovers romance hews close to the trope with few surprises as to the relationship that unfolds between Amalia and Ezra. While Amalia is initially an unlikable character, the diverse cast helps buoy the story with moments of heart and humor, particularly Amalia’s supportive family and vignettes from the project’s experimental couples. A self-described “manic pixie dream girl,” Amalia is critical of everyone around her, and many of her problems seem created by her adherence to this role. Her arc, as she begins to challenge this view of herself and reevaluate her life, gives the story added depth, and while the chemistry between Ezra and Amalia lights up the pages, it’s her journey toward self-love that really shines.
VERDICT Purchase where contemporary romance, particularly the author’s other books, are popular.

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