Title aside, Katcher’s multifaceted novel is about more than a school dance, delving into discrimination, dementia, and the perils of online fame. Deacon Locke, who has never gone on a date or been kissed, waits too long to ask out potential prom dates, so he opts to take Jean, his grandmother and primary parental figure, since she missed her own prom decades ago. Deacon’s classmates find his decision adorable, and video clips of him and Jean dancing at prom go viral. Meanwhile, Deacon summons the courage to ask out Soraya, a Muslim dance instructor he meets while taking lessons with Jean, and soon has his first girlfriend. Amid the level of small-time celebrity Deacon achieves because of the video (including agreeing to participate in a Dancing with the Stars–type show after graduation), Katcher (The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak) explores the pitfalls of Internet notoriety and the vicious, sometimes racist commentary that can come with it—with Soraya caught in the crossfire. Although the story looks directly at some of humanity’s uglier tendencies, Deacon’s entertaining commentary keeps the overall tone thoughtful, upbeat and hopeful. Ages 13–up.
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Deacon Locke is a sweet, very tall, socially awkward, eighteen-year-old who lives with his technophobe grandmother after years of constantly moving as his dad fled from one shady deal to another. In a last-ditch attempt to experience a normal high school rite of passage, Deacon takes his best friend to prom—that she is also his grandmother seems almost beside the point, at least until videos of them together at the prom go viral. Deacon suddenly finds himself having to navigate instant fame while simultaneously juggling first love and his worries about his grandmother’s increasing forgetfulness.
Deacon is a likeable narrator, full of self-deprecating humor. Pre-prom, Deacon is improbably old-fashioned with his lack of a cell phone, social media accounts, and Internet access. He believes (erroneously) that he has no friends outside of his grandmother. He is endearingly awkward as he takes ballroom dance classes at the YMCA with his grandmother and falls for the Lebanese instructor, Soraya, whom he begins to date. Post-prom, Deacon becomes a social media and reality TV star. At first he enjoys the attention, but he soon discovers the dark side of instant celebrity, especially as he learns of his grandmother’s dementia and the social media backlash directed at Soraya. This initially humorous coming-of-age story has a guy-friendly romance but deals with some serious issues in the second half, which darkens the tone somewhat.—Elizabeth Matson.
Available in February! Thanks Julia Malik and DTV Publishing!
Thanks to everyone who made that happen!