Rana Joon and the One and Only Now

S. & S./Atheneum. Jul. 2023. 304p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781665917629.
Gr 9 Up–On the cusp of high school graduation in 1996, Rana is adrift, grieving the sudden death of her best friend and struggling to balance her true self with her parents’ expectations for her to be the perfect Persian daughter. She knows she likes girls, but isn’t ready to come out as a lesbian. She writes poetry, but doesn’t have the confidence to share it. She wants to honor her best friend’s memory by entering a rap battle competition, but fears public speaking. As Rana navigates these complexities, the narrative is by turns lighthearted and devastating. With prose that ranges from raw to lyrical, Etaat’s debut creates a tender, realistic portrait of the tumultuous transition between high school and college. Despite some anachronistic slang, the mid-1990s Los Angeles setting is fully realized, with landline phone calls, shopping trips to Nordstrom’s in the local mall, and partying to a soundtrack of Tupac and Ginuwine. Etaat has created such an intimate, layered portrait of Rana and her world that readers will root for her journey to healing and self-actualization, and will miss her after the last page is turned.
VERDICT A thoroughly engrossing, poignant story of self-discovery with positive representation of intersectional identity.

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