That’s Debatable

Farrar. Jul. 2022. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374306045.
Gr 9 Up–Doll’s contemporary romance examines a series of serious societal issues such as gun control through the lens of high school debate tournaments. Millie’s and Tag’s story unfolds in short first-person alternating chapters over a debate season and follows the classic rivals-to-romance trope. Both teens are facing a pivotal post-secondary decision-making moment in their lives, but as they grow closer, and their relationship evolves, the striking difference between their situations and options becomes more and more evident. Millie suffers painful sexual harassment at the hands of her mostly male competitors and judges, and Tag confronts pressures to conform to parental expectations. Doll’s well-developed inspirational character arcs show Millie’s and Tag’s separate journeys to become voices for change. Additional depth is provided by edifying, and sometimes playful, footnotes. Informed by her own high school debate experience, Doll includes an extensive personal note that adds to the authenticity of issues explored in the novel. Although the plot can sometimes feel overburdened, engaging extras such as Tag’s recipes and defaced debate flyers lighten the tone and move the story forward. Trigger warning: the book opens with an active shooter episode that acts as catalyst for the couple’s meet-cute in a school closet. Millie and Tag are both white.
VERDICT Recommended where light romance with strong empowerment messages are popular. Hand to readers who enjoyed Michelle Quach’s Not Here to Be Liked or Sayantani DasGupta’s Debating Darcy.

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