At the start of ninth grade, Wilbur Nuñez-Knopf is hoping for a fresh start. But he just can't live down a deeply humiliating moment from two years ago that's followed him to high school. His good friend Alex has stuck by him, but Alex has started dating Fabrizio and he doesn't have much time to hang out. Luckily, Wil can still confide in his elderly neighbor, Sal. But he longs to have a special someone of his own. When the school band does an exchange with students from Paris, a girl named Charlie captures Wilbur's heart. But his feelings aren't reciprocated. So Alex, Fabrizio, and Sal join forces to build Wil's confidence in the hope that he can impress Charlie when they go to Paris. Maybe, just maybe, Wilbur will find a new defining moment in the City of Love.
Even though there isn't a lot that happens, this book is a quick read that pulled me in right away. Wilbur hasn't had an easy life at school, and struggles socially, but still maintains a positive attitude. He has realistic struggles maintaining his friendship with Alex once Fabrizio enters the picture, and feels that he won't have a chance with Charlie but makes an attempt anyway. I especially appreciated that he had listened to all of his mothers' lectures about asking before kissing a girl and getting "enthusiastic consent"!
While Wilbur's attempts to lose weight and shed his gray sweatshirt and saggy beige pants isn't really on trend, it is something that many high school students think about. He didn't have the healthiest lifestyle, so it's good to see him embracing some physical exercise and better food choices. I loved that Sal had Mad Men era clothing tucked away that Wilbur and his friends managed to style into a modern look.
Nielsen does a great job with older middle grade or younger Young Adult characters, which is evident in We Are All Made of Molecules or No Fixed Address. This is a great title for not only fans of Sonnenblick, but teen readers who want an engaging story that doesn't necessarily include sports, dragons, or space aliens!