Heat Factor: Sleepovers are now forbidden at Charlie’s house, but they do go on a field trip to Paris… (and talk about how they’re not ready yet)
Character Chemistry: Silly teenager flirting
Plot: Acknowledging oneself is one kind of scary, but coming out is a whole other kind
Overall: The sweetness remains! But there’s also a lot of giggling.
The sweet teenage boys go to Paris! School field trip! (I wish I could go to Paris for a school field trip.) And Nick’s dad is French! What?!
The central conflict of this book is how and when (or even if) Nick will come out. Coming out to his mom at the end of Volume 2 went really well, but some of the people in his life aren’t as supportive, and coming out to his friends (and by extension the whole school, because who can keep a secret?) is really scary.
Nick and Charlie are going on a school field trip to Paris, which gives them a little bubble of safety. Nick’s friends, who were caught up in bullying (or at least not speaking out against bullying) Charlie in Volume 2 aren’t on the trip, and the friends who know that Nick and Charlie are together are. Except for Tao, which is not great for a few reasons. Even with this little bubble, though, Nick increasingly feels the awkwardness of keeping his secret and the pressure to tell. Let’s just say people are really not great at minding their own business and/or thinking through the repercussions of asking prying questions, and teenagers are absolutely no exception.
Other things come up, too, of course. Nick’s dad is French, so Nick spends time trying and failing to meet up with his dad. Tao and Elle are testing their friendship with their more-than-friendly feelings for each other. Charlie’s mental health is increasingly a concern. And teenagers getting sick from alcohol is no surprise. It’s all very YA, and I really like the way these teenagers model a lot of healthy interactions with each other. They’re a little bit messy, but mostly they’re taking care of each other and not taking on responsibility for the feelings of those who are being cruel to them.
There was (I felt) more giggling and silliness in this book than in the prior two, so this one made me feel a bit old while the others didn’t quite as much. It is very normal teenage behavior, so it’s well-suited to its YA categorization. And, as I said, the messaging is great.
Notes: Charlie confesses to cutting, mostly when he had been outed the prior year but he also doesn’t put it completely in the past. Charlie also has something of an eating disorder.
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