|Happily Ever Afters|
Author: Bryant, Elise
Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader. When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine.
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 11/01/2020 Gr 9 Up—When 16-year-old Tessa starts a creative writing program in her new Southern California school, she is excited to work on her romance stories as a class assignment. Though she misses her best friend, Caroline, Tessa feels comfortable among the artists at her new school. Just as things seem to be falling into place, Tessa runs into a debilitating case of writer's block. She's terrified of being called out as a fraud, but her friend Caroline develops Operation Happily Ever After, a plan to jump-start Tessa's creativity by giving her an actual love life. Nico, a confident classmate, becomes the center of her plan and Tessa works toward turning her crush into something more, though she comes to realize that maybe what she values in a love interest is different from what she thought. Tessa, a brown-skinned, mixed-race girl (her mom is white, and her dad is Black), must deal with the daily struggles of racism. She also has to defend her older brother, who has disabilities and often causes public scenes that make people uncomfortable. Characters address their issues through realistic, compelling dialogue and ideas, which don't feel forced or pedantic. Tessa has friends who are Filipino, Cambodian, white, and Black. Tessa addresses the lack of diversity in literature and her own need to see herself in books. VERDICT This well-written, page-turning romance is packed with smart dialogue, powerful insights, and a lovable cast of characters. Highly recommended for all high school libraries.—Karin Greenberg, Manhasset H.S., NY - Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 11/01/2020 Bryant’s debut will charm readers from the start. Sixteen-year-old Tessa just got the exciting news that she has been accepted to attend an academy meant to hone the artistic talents of teenagers. As a budding fiction writer with a love for romance, Tessa is excited about this fresh start and to meet like-minded peers, until the worst possible thing happens—she gets a case of writer’s block. In an attempt to find her words, Tessa agrees to a crazy scheme to make popular student Nico fall in love with her. While romance is the focal point of this novel, Bryant seamlessly captures a broader view of the high-school experience through Tessa’s eyes, including such complications as pressure from her parents to be a better sibling and an uneasy long-distance friendship that seems to be floundering. While skillfully and realistically portraying Tessa's many challenges, Bryant never loses sight of the love story at the book's heart. Hand to fans of Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2014) or Maureen Goo's I Believe in a Thing Called Love (2017). - Copyright 2020 Booklist.