Susin Nielson’s latest offering is a heart-warming coming-of-age story. Lonely outcast Wilbur is settled in his routines: he works his part-time job at a sandwich shop, he goes to Aquacise at the weekends with his 85-year-old neighbour and he plays the triangle in the school band. His quiet world is turned upside-down when he falls in love with a French exchange student. Wilbur must embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-love in order to gain the courage to tell her how he feels. Following an intervention from his rag-tag group of friends, he undergoes a makeover to develop his confidence and self-esteem.
Nielson crafts a cast of diverse characters, and once again showcases her talent for creating strong relationships that will stay with readers beyond the pages of the book. She expertly portrays the intense and turbulent emotions of early adolescence, making the characters relatable, accessible, and endearing. The final product is a book that speaks to readers, both young and old, about the defining moments in this period of life.
With references to mature themes and a focus on some of the darker emotions that can come to the surface in puberty, this is recommended for older readers. These elements are well-balanced with humour throughout, and a considerable effort is made to promote positive messages of consent, confidence, and representations of LGBTQ+ relationships. A thoroughly enjoyable and addictive read!