Bradley Graeme and Celine Bangura used to be best friends. Then Brad joined the popular football crowd, leaving Celine to lean into nerd culture and her TikTok account. Though Celine has no shortage of self-confidence, she’s always resented Brad for choosing popularity over loyalty. Their friendship fallout feels especially painful since Celine and Brad are among the few Black students at their school. Shouldn’t they be supporting each other?
But the former besties still have plenty in common. They both aspire to get accepted into Oxford or Cambridge and pursue careers in law, so it’s not surprising that they both find themselves in a competitive program run by one of the U.K.’s most prominent Black lawyers, a woman who is Celine’s personal hero. At stake is a university scholarship—if the participants can survive a series of leadership and team-building challenges in the forests of England and Scotland. Brad and Celine will have to overcome their differences and get along, but their reconciliation might be more complicated—and more romantic—than either of them expect.
Author Talia Hibbert’s fantastic Brown Sisters rom-com trilogy won over adult romance readers with her signature blend of witty dialogue, self-discovery and true love. She makes her YA debut with Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute, and the result is sheer delight.
In her previous books, Hibbert has skillfully explored complicated family dynamics as well as themes of mental health and disability, and she does so here as well. Brad speaks candidly about having obsessive-compulsive disorder and the strategies he’s learned to manage it. Celine gradually realizes that she could benefit from therapy, especially once she recognizes that she might have selected her career goals for the wrong reasons. Along the way, both teens find the courage to be honest—with others and with themselves—about their desires.
The novel’s dialogue is fast-paced and funny, and thanks to a hilarious glossary, U.S. readers can learn a great deal about U.K. secondary school and youth culture. Hibbert’s book launches Joy Revolution, a new imprint curated by YA authors Nicola and David Yoon and dedicated to YA romances by and about people of color. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute will leave readers eager to discover what else Joy Revolution will publish.