Review by Booklist Review
Encouraged by his therapist, 17-year-old Joel gets a part-time job at ROYO Video. This attempt at normalcy drops him into a chaotic environment populated by an eclectic bunch of misfits who staff the shop. Even so, he manages to make the best of it by gaining a nickname ("Han Solo" after the Star Wars character) and a new friend in Nicole "Baby" Palmer. When Baby reveals that she's pregnant, Joel suddenly (and worryingly) finds himself being asked to be a source of strength and stability. Posthuma immerses the reader in a time capsule of 1990s pop culture, managing to keenly capture not only the feeling of growing up in that era but also the motifs of iconic films like Empire Records and High Fidelity. Despite the fun and humorous tone, the book nonetheless tackles hard-hitting topics such as teen sex and pregnancy, mental illness, and suicide with directness and empathy. This is a great read for those curious about how teens related to each other before the rise of cell phones and social media.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Nearly a decade after "The Bad Thing" occurred and "What Was Wrong With Me" set in, 17-year-old Joel just wants to be "Normal." Following years of psychiatric treatment and despite Joel's mother's concern, Joel's therapist suggests that he "try life out" in the form of employment. Soon, he lands a job at ROYO Video, where no one knows about his history and he can even take on a new film character name--Han Solo. He soon forms a close bond with coworker Nicole ("Baby," from Dirty Dancing), a teen navigating a situation of her own, but fears telling her about his past. The suspense in Posthuma's (Song's Eight Six, for adults) heartfelt, Michigan-set novel with a largely white cast comes not from discerning "The Bad Thing That Happened" or the nature of Joel's history--readers will form a general idea early on--but rather how Joel will come to terms with the past. Outspoken, sarcastic Nicole makes an amusing foil to quiet, introspective Joel, and the duo's vividly portrayed video store workplace lends an era-specific liveliness. Though the book takes place in 1996, the issues it addresses, including the lingering effects of trauma, remain relevant. Ages 14--up. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--In the mid-1990s, Joel Teague, at the behest of his psychiatrist, takes on a new job: video rental store clerk. ROYO Video, where all employees go by movie character names, is a fresh start: he's now dubbed Solo and his coworkers don't know about "The Bad Thing That Happened." While Joel proves to be a dutiful worker and tries to keep everyone at arms' length, he still connects to Scarlet, Poppins, Maverick, The Godfather, and particularly Baby. Baby--Nikki--is abrasive yet vulnerable, and is also hiding a secret. Their friendship centers the story and has its ups and downs as they learn more about each other and their situations. Tough issues, such as mental illness, divorce, homophobia, and emotionally abusive family members, are explored with nuance and empathy. There are moments of lightheartedness too, such as movie discussions and a Secret Santa exchange, which make the novel well-rounded and heartfelt. Baby and Solo are white, and their coworkers have a variety of backgrounds. VERDICT A strong addition to high school libraries, as it gracefully handles mental health and demonstrates a strong, platonic friendship.--Susan Elofson, Airport H.S., West Columbia, SC
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
Joel Teague -- an affable, self-deprecating teen living in 1990s Michigan -- is at a crossroads. After years spent in and out of inpatient psychiatric care following an unspecified "Bad Thing That Happened," Joel is now seventeen and long past his last flare-up. When his therapist prescribes a part-time job, Joel gets hired at ROYO Video. There, he takes the Star Wars-inspired nickname Solo and, with it, the chance to reinvent himself as "Normal" -- as long as he keeps his history secret from his gaggle of quirky, cinematically pseudonymed young coworkers. In this pop culture-heavy period piece, Solo narrates his own halting, sometimes misguided emotional coming of age with an earnest, immediate voice. His friendship with Baby -- a tough, straightforward, pregnant colleague standing at her own crossroads -- becomes both a safe haven from his increasingly difficult parents and a proving ground for his complex relationships with others: for example, when she pushes him to examine his behavior around a gay coworker with a crush on him, and around his troubled but alluring boss. The lingering, often-alluded-to mystery of Solo's past casts an uneasy tension over his social wins and losses. The traumatic story he eventually reveals is neither tidy nor redeeming, but neither, Solo learns, is life -- even for Normal people. Authentically flawed characters and imperfect connections add heft to this bittersweet workplace dramedy. Jessica Tackett MacDonald July/August 2021 p.122(c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Through work, friendship, and honesty, 17-year-old Joel confronts his difficult past and begins healing. At the suggestion of his psychiatrist--and despite his worried mother's concerns--Joel starts working part time at a video store (it's 1996). On the first day he is asked to choose a movie character's name for his work alias, and he picks Han Solo from Star Wars. The significance of this choice is revealed much later, as readers slowly learn why Joel was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for much of his youth. Joel's burgeoning friendship with co-worker Baby (from Dirty Dancing) is refreshingly platonic. It challenges Joel, who is torn between wanting to be seen as "Normal" and his growing desire to confide in her about his past. In his sometimes-wry, always cleareyed, narration, Joel drops tantalizing clues about his family's pain and his struggles with mental health. The author seamlessly weaves sound psychological advice into the story through Joel's observations about how he reacts to the behavior of his parents and cast of misfit co-workers. This sensitive, complex, and layered novel provides insight into family trauma and mental health recovery while taking readers on a journey of discovery that ends with an unexpected revelation. Most characters are White; there is some diversity in the supporting cast. An absorbing story of recovery from trauma. (Fiction. 13-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.