Love, Jacaranda

HarperTeen. Jul. 2020. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062447869.
Gr 9 Up–Jacaranda’s mother was imprisoned five years ago for attempting to murder an abusive partner, and Jacaranda’s only contact with her is the occasional letter. A high school junior and foster child, Jacaranda sings in a school chorus and keeps to herself. When a video of Jacaranda singing goes viral, a mysterious benefactor offers to send her to a boarding school in Michigan specializing in musical theater. With an arsenal of new possessions, she’s swept into a world where competition is fierce and soon falls behind in the art-focused high school. As she falls in love with a rich, high-profile boy named Jarvis, she wonders how long she can keep her past a secret and who has given her this new lifestyle. In the epistolary style of Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs, Jacaranda’s story is told through emails to her anonymous benefactor, and her voice strikes a balance of enthusiasm, earnestness, and troubles over friends, boys, and school. Many of the characters have strong arcs and believable flaws, but some seem to exist to propel the plot. The romance is sweet and fast-moving, with Jarvis written as a character who has had some troubles in life to explain his over-the-top generosity. There are many small plot points that slow down the story’s pacing, but ultimately lead to a frothy conclusion. Flinn adds depth to the plot with several references to musical theater and a subplot about justice for Jacaranda’s mother.
VERDICT This is for collections where Flinn’s other retellings are popular—while the tale’s various threads have satisfying resolutions, they may feel a bit unreal, and overly optimistic for some readers.

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