*I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Something More
Author: Jackie Khalilieh
Publication Date: June 6, 2023
Fifteen-year-old Jessie, a quirky loner obsessed with the nineties, is diagnosed as autistic just weeks before starting high school. Determined to make a fresh start and keep her diagnosis a secret, Jessie creates a list of goals that range from acquiring two distinct eyebrows to getting a magical first kiss and landing a spot in the school play. Within the halls of Holy Trinity High, she finds a world where things are no longer black and white and quickly learns that living in color is much more fun. But Jessie gets more than she bargained for when two very different boys steal her heart, forcing her to go off-script.
Jessie is a teen just starting high school and learning to understand herself as someone who’s recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For Jess, someone who’s always felt like an outsider and someone who’s always been a little bit different than all those in her life, the diagnosis is like two puzzle pieces fitting together. Suddenly, so many things in her life make sense, but it’s definitely NOT what she wants to hear as she’s about to begin her high school career. Everyone wants to belong in high school and this throws a wrench into the idea she held for herself.
Despite everything going on in her life, Jessie is able to set and accomplish goals. She finds a friend group for herself (though not all of the friends might be as welcoming as she initially things), she develops her first crush, and she seems to carve out a niche for herself in a way she didn’t even imagine.
I think a lot of young readers will really identify with Jessie. She’s quirky and fun. She overthinks, but always tries to do what feels right. She can be the most observant and the most oblivious all at the same time. And ultimately, she’s just trying to make her way in her new high school without making a complete fool of herself. It’s all anyone can ask for, really. She’s an incredibly likeable character, made all the more endearing for her socially awkward mannerism. Plus, her awesome affinity for all things Nineties instantly makes her incredibly joyful.
I will say, I waffled about giving this a 3 or a 4 star rating. I ultimately gave it a 4 because it’s certainly an endearing read. I did find the writing style to be a bit difficult to get into. It took a good 50 pages before I really found myself in the flow. Keeping in mind that I was reading an unedited advanced copy, this could very well change by publication. I think the strong characterization and endearing narrative are enough to carry this book through.
Overall though, I think this book has a ton of potential. The protagonist is a standout from the rest of the books dotting the YA landscape today and this story will be relevant and relatable to a vast array of young readers out there.