That's debatable

Jen Doll

Book - 2022

Seventeen-year-old Millicent M. Chalmers is depending on a series of debating victories, culminating in winning Alabama's state debate tournament, to secure a college scholarship. Her singular focus is disrupted after a run-in with Taggart Strong, who seems equally dedicated to losing every debate as long as he says what he really believes.

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Location Call Number   Status
Young Adult Area YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Doll Jen Checked In
Romance fiction
Young adult fiction
School fiction
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers 2022.
First edition
Physical Description
335 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Jen Doll (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Raised by a single mother, Millie has won the Alabama state debating championship for the past three years. Now a senior, she has promised her mom not to date. Instead, she must concentrate on winning this year's trophy and the scholarship she needs for college. When Millie and Tag, a boy on another school's team, are locked in a closet together during an active-shooter false alarm at a debate competition, they form a bond that leads to romance. After her mom discovers her lies, and a rival team bullies her, Millie breaks off her relationship with Tag, who gives her the space she needs to resolve things in her own way. The dual first-person narrative unfolds in alternating chapters from Millie's and Tag's points of view. Both main characters are well-developed as individuals within a novel that explores the hostility, harassment, and other challenges faced by many girls who choose to enter the traditionally male-dominated world of debating. Drawing readers into that sphere, this detailed, engaging story delivers both happiness and justice in the end.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

High school debate has a lot of rules, and 17-year-old white Millicent "Millie" Chalmers follows every single one, including the unspoken guidelines for girls: smile, don't yell, never get emotional, and always wear pantyhose. It's annoying, but, she believes, worth it, especially when winning guarantees college scholarship opportunities. Taggart "Tag" Strong, also white, 17, and an opposing debater in the same Alabama league, won't argue something he doesn't believe. Though his principles cost him debate wins and put him at odds with his best friend and debate captain, he refuses to waver. After bonding during an active shooter situation while they're at a competition, Millie teaches Tag how to stay true to himself and win. But when an aggressive smear campaign threatens Millie's win-streak, the pair must confront debate's toxic environment while navigating a budding romance. Though Millie's and Tag's characterizations can feel formulaic and the narrative follows a sedate pace, rival schools fighting dirty, overarching feminist themes, and contemplations on sexism and privilege provide intrigue. PW contributor and former high school competitor Doll's (Unclaimed Baggage) passion for debate is genuine and infectious, and the protagonists' alternating perspectives make for a persuasive read. Debate terms and customs are explained throughout. Ages 12--up. Agent: Ryan D. Harbage, Fischer-Harbage Agency. (July)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Doll's contemporary romance examines a series of serious societal issues such as gun control through the lens of high school debate tournaments. Millie's and Tag's story unfolds in short first-person alternating chapters over a debate season and follows the classic rivals-to-romance trope. Both teens are facing a pivotal post-secondary decision-making moment in their lives, but as they grow closer, and their relationship evolves, the striking difference between their situations and options becomes more and more evident. Millie suffers painful sexual harassment at the hands of her mostly male competitors and judges, and Tag confronts pressures to conform to parental expectations. Doll's well-developed inspirational character arcs show Millie's and Tag's separate journeys to become voices for change. Additional depth is provided by edifying, and sometimes playful, footnotes. Informed by her own high school debate experience, Doll includes an extensive personal note that adds to the authenticity of issues explored in the novel. Although the plot can sometimes feel overburdened, engaging extras such as Tag's recipes and defaced debate flyers lighten the tone and move the story forward. Trigger warning: the book opens with an active shooter episode that acts as catalyst for the couple's meet-cute in a school closet. Millie and Tag are both white. VERDICT Recommended where light romance with strong empowerment messages are popular. Hand to readers who enjoyed Michelle Quach's Not Here to Be Liked or Sayantani DasGupta's Debating Darcy. --Eva Thaler-Sroussi

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

High school debaters discover that opposites attract. For Millie Chalmers, winning the Alabama state debate tournament is everything. It guarantees lucrative scholarship opportunities--a boon for Millie and her overworked single mother. She can't let anything interfere with her college plans: not pervasive sexual harassment and double standards, not dating, and certainly not saying how she really feels. But aspiring chef Tag Strong just wants to speak his mind, dismaying his ambitious parents and private school teammates. After an active shooter scare at a tournament brings Millie and Tag closer, they fall in love despite their opposing personalities. But as the final tournament approaches, mishaps and a vicious harassment campaign against Millie threaten to ruin not only her chances of winning, but the teens' relationship. In alternating first-person chapters, Millie and Tag reflect on each other, parental expectations, and their debate topics, which--echoing the plot--include gun ownership, income inequality, and speaking out against injustice. Footnotes pepper their narratives with definitions, citations, and snarky asides. Twitter threads and recipes for Tag's culinary creations add variety and verisimilitude. Though the pacing is occasionally uneven, Millie's unapologetic battle against sexism is inspiring, and Tag's reckoning with his privilege is heartening. Weighty issues and the quirky rivals-to-lovers romance are given equal attention. Millie and Tag are White; secondary characters bring some ethnic diversity. An unusual, thought-provoking take on advocating for oneself and others. (author's note) (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.