Suzette is home for the summer after being away at boarding school. Reunited with her step-brother and good friend Lionel, she also wants to rekindle friendships she largely left on pause while she was away. But Lionel’s been diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, and he tells her he wants to go off his meds. Suzette feels responsible for Lionel, but she also feels guilty, because she’s crushing on the same girl that Lionel has started dating.
The long-awaited follow-up from Brandy Colbert doesn’t disappoint. Filled with interesting and layered characters, as well as a fully engrossing narration by Suzette, this is a strong sophomore effort. Although it could easily fall into the trap of being an “issues” book, Colbert navigates a whole host of tricky topics with total sensitivity and confidence. Easily covering issues like mental illness, bisexuality, and identity politics, Colbert has crafted a novel that’s compelling, memorable, and very realistic.
Perhaps the novel’s weakest point is the sheer number of characters present in the novel. There are moments where it feels as though there are too many characters stuffed in the book’s pages, and as a result there’s too much going on. But the characters that do appear are well-rounded and interesting, and Colbert’s clear love for them helps ground the narrative. A strong sense of place also helps make this novel stand out.
On the whole, a very thoughtful look at coming of age and grappling with all sorts of real-life, messy stuff. Colbert is one of the best authors writing YA right now. This one is not to be missed.
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. Little, Brown: 2017. Library copy.