Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute cover
Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

By Talia Hibbert
Joy Revolution / Random House, 2023
319 pages

Age 12 and older

Celine Bangura and Bradley Graeme, Afro-British teens living in Nottingham, are former best friends who fell out in early adolescence. From Celine’s perspective, Brad rejected her for popularity. From Brad’s, he just wanted to branch out socially but admits, at least to himself, that he could have handled things better. Now in their last year of high school, both have been selected for a program that offers participants networking opportunities, with one winning a scholarship at year’s end. Celine is fierce and funny but emotionally guarded because of her lawyer dad’s abandonment of their family; sharing her true feelings and trusting people is hard. Brad appears like life is effortless on the surface, but he’s quietly battling the buzz in his brain from his OCD with the help of therapy, and doubting his dream to become a writer–a dream he can’t find the courage to share with his own lawyer father. The enrichment program includes two camping expeditions, and as they engage in tasks requiring cooperation and teamwork, as well as creative thinking, leadership, and resilience, Brad and Celine learn about themselves, each other, and how they each perceive what happened in the past. And they fall in love. This entertaining romance is elevated by the thoughtful development and individual growth of each of the two protagonists.  ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center