Verona Comics

Putnam. Apr. 2020. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525516286.
Gr 9 Up–A deep dive into first love while learning to manage significant mental health challenges. Jubilee is a talented musician preparing to audition for a life-changing summer internship. Ridley is from an affluent family, and his parents lack empathy for their struggling, sometimes suicidal son. After a meet-cute at a comics convention, Jubilee and Ridley, through a series of elaborate plot devices, fall in love. Jubilee, who finds Ridley’s social awkwardness endearing, pursues the relationship despite a number of red flags. Ridley makes several bad choices and struggles to take responsibility, which makes it hard to root for him or his relationship with Jubilee. As Ridley’s increasingly fragile mental health deteriorates, he is forced to accept professional help. Most chapters switch between Jubilee’s and Ridley’s alternating perspectives—a literary device that at times is confusing. Dugan’s strength is in creating a diverse cast of characters. Ridley is bisexual, Jubilee struggles with how to identify and label her sexuality, and most of the supporting characters are queer-identified. The ending is rushed, and major plot points, such as Jubilee’s pursuit of her internship, tie up nicely but lack payoff.
VERDICT There’s a lot to want to love about this book, but, ultimately, it’s impossible to cheer on the romance between the leads, and it fails to deliver on all of its plot points.

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