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Roy, Rachel, and Ava Dash. 96 Words for Love.

Roy, Rachel, and Ava Dash. 96 Words for Love, jimmy patterson, January 2019. 320p. $17.99. 978-0-316-47778-9.

2Q * 3P * S * NA

High school senior Raya should be thrilled, like best friend Lexi, but is plagued by anxiety--not freshman jitters and paralyzing selfdoubt. Is UCLA her dream or her parents', and what if her major is not her true passion? The death of her grandmother rips another seam in Rayas fragile composure, but a chat with her cousin Anandi may provide an exit. Their grandmother's dying wish was to unite the cousins in India on a treasure hunt at a spiritual retreat. Raya hopes to discover her calling and future career, but the tokens retrieved from sacred shrines lead to more soul searching, a problematic romance, and the dramatic rescue of an abducted child.

Rayas quest is about self-discovery and self-determination but is also an exploration of third-world issues juxtaposed against first-world entitlement. Indian folklore and spiritualism are interwoven into an expose of human injustices. The mother-daughter writing team draws from their heritage and philanthropic work, and although 96 Words for Love sheds light on poverty and human trafficking, the message is mired by a convoluted plot and inauthentic dialogue that mimics youthful irreverence with offbeat slang and gratuitous expletives. The title suggests that Rayas path of discovery will lead to myriad explorations of loveromantic, familial, platonic, ethereal, and inner--yet the lack of emotional depth bars readers from connecting. Rayas love interest is arrogant and sexually manipulative, and other characters are unsympathetic stereotypes. Devin is especially heinous as a culturally insensitive counterpoint to Rayas beleaguered altruism. Artifice and awkward transitions thwart the momentum, and cute alliterative chapter headings are distracting and detractive. The publisher promotes this book as a teen Eat, Pray, Love (Riverhead, 2007) yet falters in identifying and relating to the target audience. Readers are better served with 13 Little Blue Envelopes (HarperTeen, 2016) or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Delacorte, 2001/VOYA October 2001) than this overambitious and predictable letdown.--Rebecca Jung.

With layer upon layer of overused and generic love concepts, 96 Words for Love is your run-of-the-mill romantic novel. It is chock-full of stereotypes--from the forbidden young love to the journey of obvious self-discovery--making the novel predictable and its story commonplace. The characters seem to appear only to help the main character on her journey and because of this are underdeveloped. While the book is an easy read, the story remains uninspiring. 2Q, 3P.--Jules Wagner, Teen Reviewer.

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Author:Jung, Rebecca; Wagner, Jules
Publication:Voice of Youth Advocates
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2018
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