Rich and Mad

369p. 978-1-60684-120-4.
Gr 10 Up—This novel, narrated with limited omniscience from the points of view of 16-year-old Maddie and her classmate Rich, describes both characters' growing interest in romance and intimacy. When Maddie develops a crush on Joe, a popular guy who has been dating another girl for years, he seems to signal his interest by communicating with her through email, sending Maddie bons mots while encouraging her to keep their electronic relationship a secret. Meanwhile, Rich nurses a crush on Grace, Maddie's distant, icy, and beautiful friend. As the lovelorn Rich and Maddie pine for the objects of their desire, Maddie, in a plot twist reminiscent of Jaclyn Moriarty's The Year of Secret Assignments (Scholastic 2005), discovers that she has been used as a pawn by a friend involved in a dangerous romance, a finding that draws her closer to Rich. Although drawn as distinct individuals, the protagonists are hard to know; their thoughts and actions are told more than they are shown. When Rich and Maddie's relationship grows intimate, Nicholson's prose is distinctly romantic, though intellectualized, somewhat impersonal, and even mechanical. "She wants to please me. She gives me her body to please me," thinks Rich, after a particularly steamy encounter. Nicholson does not shy away from sexual explication, a characteristic that distinguishes the novel. Just as Judy Blume's Forever (Bradbury, 1975) has been lauded for its frankness but criticized for its clinical language, Rich and Mad might be similarly but guardedly praised.—Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston
Richard and Maddy are experiencing love and sex for the first time. Rich is hopelessly in love with Maddy's troubled friend Grace, while Maddy likes classmate Joe. But after complications with their unrequited crushes, the two realize they love each other. The narration in this British import is stiff, and the two protagonists are too wooden to have any chemistry.

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