Review by Booklist Review
At three years old, Maya emigrated from India with her mother, so all she knows is her neighborhood in Citrus Grove, Florida. Now a sophomore, Maya transforms from a quiet A-student focused on her art to a member of the Pugilists, a secret activist group. Leading the Pugilists is Juneau Zales, an outspoken, larger-than-life senior. Juneau makes it her mission to break Maya out of her shell. Not only is Maya thrilled at Juneau's attention, she starts to fall in love with her. When her fight against racism results in being outed, she runs away with Juneau. Later, realizing that running away was a poor choice, she returns to face her detractors. Maya is a dynamic character, full of the ups and downs of adolescence on the cusp of adulthood. Other characters, such as social butterfly Anya and serious student-council member Ife, provide effective contrasts for Maya, while Juneau feeds into Maya's enthusiasm and, to a degree, naivete. The breakneck plot will grab readers, while Maya's personality will carry them to the end.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Queer Indian American 16-year-old Maya Krishnan, a talented artist, attends a conservative high school in a central Florida suburb that often feels like "it has two sides." Maya's mother jokes that their neighborhood, populated by people of Cuban, Ethiopian, Korean, and Puerto Rican descent, is like the United Nations. The block where Maya's enigmatic white classmate Juneau Zale lives, meanwhile, has "realtor dads railing in their booming voices about the Immigrants and Newcomers Raising Their Taxes." As relations between school administration and BIPOC students become strained, Juneau asks Maya to join the Pugilists, a secret society of Banksy-esque artists and mischief-makers who use art to fight against their school's bigoted policies. But with Maya engaging in increasingly risky behavior with the Pugilists--and falling for Juneau--she begins neglecting her family and friends. When an incident jeopardizes Maya's future, she realizes that her work with the society has her in way over her head--and that Juneau might not be who she presents to the world. If occasionally polemic prose sometimes halts narrative pacing, debut author Kannan's critiques of law enforcement, misogyny, and racism are astute, and Maya's perceptive first-person narration is both polished and emotionally raw, making for a socially conscious self-love story about identity, family, and belonging. Ages 14--up. (July)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
An Indian American girl navigates the stakes and sacrifices of rebellion in this queer coming-of-age story. At Citrus Grove High School near Orlando, it's an unspoken truth that students of color are disproportionately punished over their White counterparts. Maya Krishnan, a sophomore and talented artist, is used to playing the invisible observer. But deep inside her, rage is simmering, and she can't keep quiet about the injustice she sees anymore. Maya stumbles on an opportunity to make waves when her paintings catch the eye of Juneau Zale, a rebellious White girl who leads the Pugilists, a secret group of students who protest Citrus Grove High's policies through guerilla activism. Under their wing, Maya feels empowered to be more daring than she ever imagined, but it comes at a cost: Her friends are resentful of her sudden secretiveness, her relationship with her single mother is faltering, and her future will be on the line if she's caught. Complicating things further is Maya's growing infatuation with Juneau, whose fearlessness both exhilarates and unnerves her. As she's pulled deeper into Juneau's orbit--and her whims--Maya begins to realize that she may be in over her head. The protagonist's passion, outrage, and longing are vividly expressed through ruminative first-person prose and sharp dialogue. Maya's problems pile up quickly, but the author handles each plot thread deftly and brings the journey to a satisfying conclusion. A turbulent and cathartic account of self-discovery, activism, and first love. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.