Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? High school junior Isabel feels out-of-place in her 2×2 family (work-a-holic parents and older twin siblings) and invisible at school. She does have a gorgeous and attentive boyfriend named Alex, but he doesn’t care for her best friend, Naomi, so Isabel is increasingly isolated. One night she stumbles into a college comedy club and through a series of mishaps, ends up delivering an impromptu stand-up set. A trio of aspiring comedians from University of Chicago snuggle up to the newbie and before she knows what’s what, Isabel is reborn as Izzy V., a fellow college student. Her new and conveniently diverse posse supports her as she follows her passion; meanwhile, it becomes increasingly obvious to readers that Alex is a controlling gaslighter. I really liked the look into the world of stand-up, which I found compelling and the literary allusions to Shakespeare (twins, fatal flaws, mistruths and misdirection.) Henry phrases many of Isabel’s profound explorations of self with the structure, “”I think” and “I think” but then “I say”, exploring the mind of a teenage girl who longs to stick up for herself but isn’t quite brave enough yet. Isabel, her family and high school friends are White, while her college friends consist of Mo, a lesbian and an Iranian-American, Will, who’s Black and Jonah, who’s Asian-American.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Shakespearian riffs aside (and I loved them all) the contrivances really pile up in this book. Isabel has some kind of language processing disability (never detailed) that allows Alex to act as her interpreter in the cafeteria, but doesn’t seem to hinder her ability to hear in crowded clubs. Her parents are unbelievably detached, blithely unaware of their daughter’s secret life until she spills the beans about one of Mom’s big court cases during an ad lib set and faces blackmail. The resolution with her family also comes in one fell swoop (why is everything Mom’s fault while Dad gets off scot-free?). It’s possible the bursting-at-the seams plot will not bother teen readers.
To whom would you recommend this book? Grades 9 and up, looking for a girl power novel with a happy ending. Izzy V.’s comedy routines are not all that funny; they’re more in the Seinfeld school of observational comedy, but I found the setting novel and really enjoyed the intersection of Shakespearean drama and teen life.
Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries. There’s a Me-Too encounter with a promoter and some casual drug use and drinking.
Where would you shelve it? YA
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: March 23, 2021