Two isolated teens struggle against their complicated lives to find a true connection in this “timely and timeless” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) debut novel about first love and the wreckage of growing up.
Lily is returning to her privileged Manhattan high school after a harrowing end to her sophomore year and it’s not pretty. She hates chemistry and her spiteful lab partner, her friends are either not speaking to her or suffocating her with concerned glances, and nothing seems to give her joy anymore. Worst of all, she can’t escape her own thoughts about what drove her away from everyone in the first place.
Enter Dari (short for Dariomauritius), the artistic and mysterious transfer student, adept at cutting class. Not that he’d rather be at home with his domineering Trinidadian father. Dari is everything that Lily needs: bright, creative, honest, and unpredictable. And in a school where no one really stands out, Dari finds Lily’s sensitivity and openness magnetic. Their attraction ignites immediately, and for the first time in what feels like forever, Lily and Dari find happiness in each other.
In twenty-first-century New York City, the fact that Lily is white and Dari is black shouldn’t matter that much, but nothing’s as simple as it seems. When tragedy becomes reality, can friendship survive even if romance cannot?
In this engrossing debut novel set in New York City, Corthron takes readers back and forth between the perspectives of two high school loners who are beginning the school year with a lot of baggage. Lily Rothstein, a white musician, is the school pariah, abandoned by even her best friends, though Corthron doesn't immediately reveal why. Dariomauritius "Dari" Gray, who is black, has an abusive father and his own history of rage, which he tries to escape by focusing on drawing and keeping to himself. Sparks fly when the two meet, and their conversations about family, race, and their difficult backgrounds light up the pages. Corthron carefully builds trust between Dari and Lily, but as the teenagers' pasts catch up with them, some late-breaking and scandalous developments, including the revelation of what has made Lily such an outcast, undermine the still-new romance and tenuous intimacy between them. While some of these dramatic twists feel rushed, Corthron marks herself as a writer unafraid of taking up difficult topics relevant to teens' lives. Ages 14 up.