Last Chance Dance

Viking. Feb. 2023. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593525616.
Gr 7 Up–Smarting from her parents’ divorce in eighth grade, Leila Bean thinks it must be fate when she meets cute Dev Rajan while shopping for schools supplies the summer before freshman year. Then after four years as their high school’s most unproblematic couple, Leila is devastated when Dev decides to break up with her just before graduation, instead of taking their relationship long-distance during college. Hurting from the breakup and the confusion of being out of a committed relationship for essentially the first time, Leila is devastated that this will be her biggest memory from high school. Then best friend Bree reminds Leila that the school’s Last Chance Dance is coming up, giving Leila a chance to match with three unrequited crushes (if the interest is mutual) and one algorithm-chosen wild card. No one is more surprised than Leila when she’s matched with all of her crushes and her longtime nemesis. Going on dates with athletic Kai, activist Mason, and bookstagrammer Eva is fun, but the biggest surprise for Leila is that class clown Tre’ (orchestrator of her biggest humiliation in eighth grade and possibly her entire life) might be an actual contender for a date and maybe even more. Leila and most of the characters in her Maryland school are Black; characters fall across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, including bisexual Eva and “masculine-presenting lesbian” Bree.
VERDICT Wilson’s breezy narrative and the inventive Last Chance Dance premise make a winning combination in this romance where Leila learns how to trust again while figuring out how to define herself outside of her relationship status.

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