Readers of Adam Silvera (They Both Die at the End) and Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X) will pull out the tissues for this tender, quirky story of one seventeen-year-old boy's journey through first love and first heartbreak, guided by his personal hero, Oscar Wilde.
Words have always been more than enough for Ken Z, but when he meets Ran at the mall food court, everything changes. Beautiful, mysterious Ran opens the door to a number of firsts for Ken: first kiss, first love. But as quickly as he enters Ken's life, Ran disappears, and Ken Z is left wondering: Why love at all, if this is where it leads?
Letting it end there would be tragic. So, with the help of his best friends, the comfort of his haikus and lists, and even strange, surreal appearances by his hero, Oscar Wilde, Ken will find that love is worth more than the price of heartbreak.
"An unabashed love letter to Oscar Wilde, Cole Porter, and the arts' ability to give voice to human emotion." --Kirkus
"Linmark's novel is definitely offbeat and wild(e)ly imaginative...and a rich reading experience that would make the ineffable Oscar proud." --Booklist
"A big-hearted book that...always keeps love in its heart." --Abdi Nazemian author of Like a Love Story and The Authentics
"As surreal as it is real, as beautiful as it is painful, as playful as it is wise. --Randy Ribay, author of Patron Saints of Nothing
Ken Z, 17, lives in the fictional Pacific Island country of South Kristol, which is a developing nation under the thumb of militaristic, wealthy neighbor North Kristol. When Ken Z visits an upscale shopping mall to see how the other half lives, he meets Ran, a boy from across the northern border, and over the course of a few weeks, experiences his first kiss, first love, and then his first heartbreak after Ran ends their budding relationship by vanishing without a word. Linmark's YA debut, told in a smattering of literary styles (prose, haiku, lists that are half poetry, and imaginary conversations with Ken Z's literary hero, Oscar Wilde), conveys a universal story, but it becomes bogged down in its own obsession with language, with pretty turns of phrase taking priority over plot. While the merger of narrative and poetry isn't wholly successful at creating a believable emotional core, the narrative element, in particular, falls short, with dialogue that feels stiff and scripted. Older readers might find this story familiar, but younger teens especially might appreciate an artistic fantasy of first young love. Ages 12 up.