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Young Adult Fiction 1213
cute YA summer contemporary
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LONG STORY SHORT is an engaging YA contemporary that follows a 16-year-old on her quest to convince her parents to let her attend Oxford. Beatrice has been homeschooled by her therapist parents in Berkeley, and her social life has been limited. She graduated from high school, though her parents have wanted her to stay at home until she is older. However, she dreams of studying statistics at Oxford - and she got accepted, but her parents are not on board.

In order to convince them, she agrees to go to a summer camp for acting where they'll be putting on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with a list of normal teenager tasks to accomplish, such as make a friend and walk up to someone and engage in small talk. Once she arrives, Beatrice is determined to accomplish the list so that she can attend college. As she begins to make friends of her roommate Mia and her friend Nolan, Beatrice's list seems to be in full swing. However, she soon finds enemies, such as Shelby a girl who also lives in her cabin, and a guy she just can't seem to shake, Nik, that make her time there more complicated.

What I loved: This is ultimately a summer of self-discovery for Beatrice, as she figures out how to be around people her own age and embrace herself as she is. Through the list and the help of her new friends, Beatrice is learning how to be around people her own age and fit in more than would otherwise. There are some really great, heartfelt conversations about what friendship means and how you define support - as in, it doesn't always mean blindly agreeing with everything someone else does.

Themes around bullying, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things, making friends, handling flirting/relationships, and figuring out who you want to be/how you'll present yourself to the world will resonate with a YA audience. While the specific situations of the book are unique, the themes are universal.

Beatrice was a really endearing character, and she was easy to cheer for. She has a lot going on this summer and one great goal in mind, so as she navigates social situations and stepping out of her comfort zone, it's effortless for the reader to be in her corner. The enemies-to-lovers plot was fun, and if Beatrice wanted it to happen, the reader did too. Mia was another really great character who offers support and context without judgment, and she also brings up themes around theatre and related careers for POCs, which is important to discuss.

What left me wanting more: Although I really overall enjoyed the book, there were a few things that I found a bit troubling. Beatrice seems to be on the spectrum, as she is very particular about sensory things (clothes, crowds, etc.), eating the same foods every night (at camp, when she cannot have the designated meals, she just eats rolls and cookies, avoiding main entrees), and has a lot of trouble reading people and understanding their emotions. Her parents are therapists and she sees a therapist throughout the book (which is great), but it is challenging when her parents make fun of her for her uniform and other peculiarities. It does make sense that they would worry about her being away at college, but the way that this all happens is pretty tough. For instance, she talks about being traumatized by Disneyland because her parents made her touch and hug strangers, but then one of the things on the list is that she has to hug 3 people. You do not have to hug people at college (that is not part of the curriculum), and it seems an unnecessary crossing of boundaries.

Perhaps the intent was just to make Beatrice introverted and avoidant because of the experience she had when she was little, but it seems like there was more going on there, as she exhibits a lot of symptoms of autism, even if not clearly diagnosed. Similar to the way her parents do not really respect her boundaries or search for independence, the main romantic interest tramples all over them as well. It goes back to the argument of when persistence stops being cute and is harassment. Of note, he does ask sometimes when he crosses boundaries, but she spends a lot of the book running away from him, so there was definitely a strange factor in here (why keep pursuing and should he even be?). With a character who was facing less challenges around boundaries and socializing, the enemies-to-lovers plot could have been a lot of fun, with a bet for a kiss and Shakespearean show-downs. These relationships are, of course, more complex than I can describe here, but it was at times challenging to fully buy into.

Final verdict: Overall, LONG STORY SHORT is a cute YA summer contemporary about stepping out of your comfort zone, friendship, and Shakespeare.
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