Together, Apart

Delacorte. Oct. 2020. 288p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780593375297.
Gr 8 Up–This realistic fiction anthology features nine romantic stories, all taking place in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Characters in each story are navigating the new normal that teenagers in real life will find relatable: getting used to social distancing, logging into Zoom classes, baking extensively, taking daily walks around the neighborhood, and having prom canceled. The romantic aspects of each also have commonalities, with frequent whimsical thoughts about hoping to soon see their love interest without a mask, the desire to be physically closer together than six feet, and the significant role of technology in bringing them together. From there, however, the stories differ in gratifying ways. One main character is coping with a move to a rural area, while another is dealing with the noise from the musician on the balcony in the neighboring apartment complex. Some stories emphasize mental health and the need to maintain connection to bolster it, while others are more humorous. Some stories have stable families with whom the main character can quarantine, while others do not. The gravity of COVID-19 is consistently maintained, but anticipation for the future with a new partner is a common, satisfying theme. Many of these stories could easily be full novels. The book features LGBTQ and BIPOC perspectives throughout.
VERDICT This timely read handles the challenging times readers are in with respect, grace, and hope. Recommended for purchase.

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