Little & Lion

Returning to Los Angeles from boarding school, Suzette is excited to see her old friends, especially her crush Emil and her stepbrother Lionel, whom she calls "Lion." She is disappointed to find that Lionel, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, has disconnected from their group of friends (he thinks "people ask too many questions"), especially because her parents' desire to focus on his treatment was the reason Suzette was sent to boarding school in the first place. Suzette (whom Lionel calls "Little") thinks her mother "really thought she did what was best for all of us by sending me away," but she knows "how easy it is to believe you're doing the right thing if you say it to yourself often enough."

At a welcome-home party, Suzette meets Rafaela, who starts dating Lionel. Things seem to be perking up between Suzette and Emil until she discovers she also has feelings for Rafaela. Suzette is overwhelmed by guilt: she has a crush on someone even though she's dating someone else; she wasn't there for her brother; and she left things unsaid with her roommate, with whom her secret relationship ended when homophobic classmates outed them.

Little & Lion unfolds in alternating "then" and present-day chapters, allowing Suzette to understand what happened while she was away and what happened to send her away. Brandy Colbert (Pointe) paints a realistic, nuanced portrait of bipolar disorder, showing Lionel's high energy and irrational anger while also depicting the long process that begins with identifying symptoms and leads to diagnosis and management. Suzette's coming to terms with her bisexuality and Lionel's bipolar disorder are given the gravity and time they deserve without pat outcomes. Sexy moments and raucous but realistic teen parties round out this passionate, contemporary bildungsroman. --Sarah Hannah Gómez, freelance writer and doctoral student in children's literature

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