Zyla & Kai

­Penguin/Kokila. Jun. 2022. 480p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593407240.
Gr 7 Up–A sweet, funny, and heartfelt story about falling in and out of love, and what happens next. Zyla is cynical about love, having grown up watching her mother’s roller-coaster love life. Her goal is to work on her fashion portfolio and land a spot studying design in Paris. Kai’s parents died when he was nine, and ever since he’s been working to be the perfect son to his aunt and uncle. He’s also a serial monogamist. These two apparent opposites meet while working at an amusement park, and friendship turns to mutual longing and then to a relationship. While their falling in love forms most of the story, it is all told in flashback from the present, on the day that Zyla and Kai, who may or may not have broken up, seem to have run away from a senior class trip. The knowledge that their relationship will unravel lends stakes and adds tension. The story is told mainly from the lovers’ points of view, with some chapters from the POV of their family members and friends, building up a whole community of interesting, layered characters, including Zyla’s BFF Beatrice, who is bisexual and in an open relationship, as well as Beatrice’s mother, who is also bisexual. Zyla and Kai’s blended families are supportive and loving; the story emphasizes the importance of emotional honesty, including going to therapy. Zyla, Kai, and their best friends Jamal and Beatrice are all Black, as are their parents and guardians.
VERDICT A charming, eminently readable love story with relatable characters sure to appeal to fans of romances by Jenny Han and Nicola Yoon.

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