Lucky Caller

Holt. Jan. 2020. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250179654.
Gr 9 Up–Even though Nina is the daughter of a semi-famous radio host, her own radio show is a mess. Created as part of her high school’s broadcasting class, her show Sounds of the Nineties has a wooden host, a catalog of obscure ‘90s songs, and an average listenership of three people. Charged by their teacher with improving their station, her team—comprised of practical Sasha, prankster Joydeep, and Nina’s childhood crush Jamie—unintentionally hits upon a solution when they play several tracks in a row by ‘90s grunge band Existential Dead and build an instant following among their fanbase. Capitalizing on this success, they start planning a ticketed fundraiser with Nina’s dad as the surprise guest. The only problem is that the “hints” they’re tweeting out have the Internet convinced that the guest is either Tyler Bright, the reclusive frontman of Existential Dead, or Lucas Kirk, member of the hit boy band This Is Our Now. Meanwhile, Nina is trying to sort through her feelings about her mother’s engagement and their impending move from a historical apartment building that has always been home, while also rekindling her friendship-and-maybe-more with Jamie after a falling-out years earlier. The book is rich with Mills’s signature witty dialogue, close-knit friend groups, and gentle romance, which will delight fans of her earlier titles. However, the pacing feels rushed, with many scenes ending abruptly. Still, the radio plot is fun and fresh, and the warm, realistic sibling dynamics pleasantly evoke Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
VERDICT As usual, Mills delivers a charming romance with nuanced supporting characters and exceptionally good dialogue. Hand this to fans of Jenn Bennett or Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary novels.

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