Terrific! I gave it 5 *’s because not much I’ve read lately left me enthusiastic, and this did. Norris, a Black French Canandian of Haitian decent who loves hockey, skiing, and the Montreal climate is forced to adapt to life in an American high school in Austin (hot!) when his mother, after a long period without work, finally lands a University professorship there. Relatively few characters play a part in Norris’s drama, but the author only allows a couple of them to remain stereotypic cut-outs, even taking time to add dimension to a few adults, which is far from the norm in teen fiction. Norris’s intriguing Mom is fully formed and even though he resents being dragged to Austin, he understands the necessity, and continues to love and spend time with her. Again, atypical. Norris’s main flaw is to remain disengaged except when he feels the need to wield his sharp and judgmental tongue as a weapon. Luckily, a few of his new peers are drawn to him anyway and are not shy about pointing out his weak points. Philosophical Liam and take-charge Maddie may seem too evolved to be realistic teenagers, but they serve to push Norris forward, and at least they have their own flaws. All of it adds fun and wit to the story. The ‘biological/anthropological’ notes on the ‘species’ and ‘behaviors’ of teens are often lol funny. However, this novel also has real weight. Definitely an impressive debut novel.
--The jacket bio notes make clear that much about this novel is auto-biographical, although Philippe’s adaptation to Austin was evidently a bit later in life.