Rae and Jupiter, for their part, grapple with their mutual attraction, but also their growing realization that Courtney may be the true target of their feelings. The passages narrated by them are where Stone’s writing soars, as each girl struggles to understand her sexual identity and whether it’s as etched in stone as she once thought.
The novel concludes, satisfyingly, with Jupiter’s perspective, and readers finally get a sense of this flesh-and-blood teenager — not just a manic pixie girl sex object. In these chapters, declaring yourself — how you would like to be represented and whom you want to love and connect with — is treated with real tenderness.
Janelle Milanes’s second Y.A. novel (after “The Victoria in My Head”), ANALEE, IN REAL LIFE (Simon Pulse, 416 pp., $17.99; ages 12 and up), dives into the contemporary question of how the connections we make in virtual worlds can help or hurt us in the “real” world. Still reeling from her mother’s death from cancer, Analee Echevarria would rather inhabit her favorite online game as Kiri the night elf hunter than deal with her father’s impending nuptials to a lifestyle coach and yogi, or watch her ex-best friend making out with her boyfriend.
Analee starts to face her anxiety head on when she’s partnered with Seb, a smooth-talking soccer star, on a science project. In a classic romantic comedy fashion that may call to mind Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” the two pretend to date for mutual benefits: Seb gets to make his ex-girlfriend jealous and Analee gets to flaunt her fake relationship in front of her former best friend while getting practice for the “real” relationship she hopes to have with Harris, the gaming partner she’s been crushing on but hasn’t yet met in person.
Milanes has created authentic characters with family issues that reflect the world we live in. Analee’s conservative Cuban grandparents have a tough time understanding why their son wants to forgo the traditional wedding and make an alliance with a veggie-eating, vlogging yoga instructor. Seb covers up his difficult home situation with his life-of-the-party attitude. Analee finds it difficult to have face-to-face interactions and even to leave the house after her mother’s death.
There’s also Analee’s witty internal monologue, which will feel all too familiar to introverts: “I hesitate. I have this thing about sharing food. A spoon soaked with someone else’s saliva? Mixing with the food I’m about to eat? Shudder. If Dad were here, he’d bug his eyes out at me in his silent warning. Oye. No seas extraña. Which loosely translates to ‘Don’t be a weirdo.’”