The Kidney Hypothetical
What worked: I loved the voice of this very engaging tale that had me really rooting for Higgs. He has his whole life planned out and it's not until Roo breaks up with him on the "Senior Sail"(omg, the first two chapters are so funny with what leads up to the breakup). But he has a little secret. He's been wanting to break up with her and at first he's relieved that it's finally been done until the next day at school. There's a smear campaign that sets off a domino affect with his so-called envious future. One thing after another is taken away until he doesn't know what to do.
I really liked seeing his family dynamics too. His controlling father pushes him to get into not only Harvard but to be a third generation dentist. There's also glimpses into a sadness in his house and a younger sister Charlie, that feels ignored. The diversity in this family, Higgs is Chinese/English, is another huge plus.
The real fun comes when Higgs meets a tattoo girl named Monarch in an abandoned Airstream hidden in the woods by his home. She's everything that he's not used too. There's an edginess to Monarch that is razor sharp. Higgs is drawn to her. She dares him to go outside his comfort zone and take some risks. Some are pretty funny(freeing the mice at the Mall pet store) and others borderline scary. Monarch is like some of those sweet and sour gummy worm candies. There are times readers see bits of vulnerabilities that soften her otherwise tough chick veneer. Readers know she's hiding a secret but can't help but get caught up in her attics.
While reading, it hit me how this story is a twist on the whole Roman Holiday movie from a teen 'escaping' the path that is paved out for him/her to the ending result. There's even a mention or two of Audrey Hepburn! Plus, the bittersweet 'not so happily ever after' evening is satisfying in that to be otherwise would force our characters into roles that would be unbelievable and frankly not acceptable! Kuddos for Lee for nailing the anguish, questioning, and realistic dialogue of teens out there!
Engaging hilarious tale of a teen who finds out that his so-called future might not be what he really wants. Only when he takes destiny into his own hands can he embrace his future. Add a fun assortment of other characters and you have a winning story!