War and Speech

Little, Brown. May 2020. 416p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781368010078.
Gr 9 Up–Sydney’s life has been upended by her parents’ divorce and her father’s imprisonment for tax fraud. She moves across town and gets a fresh start at Eaganville School for Arts, where she is shocked to find that the speech and debate team kids are the alphas. After engaging in verbal altercations with several speech team members and witnessing the toxic culture created by the coach, Sydney vows to take them down. She is encouraged to do so by her new friends, fellow misfits Lakshmi, Thomas, and Elijah. They devise a plan where Sydney will join the team and destroy it from within; not part of the plan is the realization that Sydney has a natural talent for speech, especially once she looks within and summons the confidence to tell her own story. And once she smells victory, she’s not sure if she can throw away her solid shot at winning. Sydney is white, while secondary characters have diverse backgrounds and cultures. Zolidis, a playwright, has written an entertaining book that is also smart and thought-provoking.
VERDICT Hilarious from start to finish with fast-paced dialogue and one ridiculous scenario after another, this book will fly off the shelves.

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