The Frenemy Zone – Yolanda Wallace

On a backdrop of book pages, an iPad with the cover of The Frenemy Zone by Yolanda Wallace. At the bottom of the image, a strip of torn paper with a quote: "There’s a lot to love in this book." and a url:

When Olly Smith-Nakamura’s family moves from San Francisco to Frog Wallow, West Virginia, she’s prepared to hate everything about the small town she liked as a summer destination. She quickly finds out that having one of the dads’ families in her life isn’t so bad and neither is a smaller high school with a strangely high number of excellent sports teams.

There are many things I loved in this story. I envy and admire any teenager who knows who they are as clearly as Olly does. She may not always know what she wants or where she’s going but she knows who she is and she won’t let anyone make her feel bad about it. Whether it’s her queerness, her dads’, the fact that she’s a girl on a boys’ wrestling team, her mixed cultural heritage (one of her dads is a Black man, the other is of Japanese descent), even her family’s financial struggles, she’s embraces it all. At first glance, Ariel’s life may look easier but her journey towards affirmation, as a lesbian and as a person in her own right, is inspiring. This is also one of the first books in which I like the way the pandemic is included, for the most part. It’s not overwhelming and not an afterthought either, it’s part of life.

While I enjoyed this book a lot, I would have loved a bit more nuance. Olly is too perfect, as is most of her family. Problems are solved very swiftly, people learn quickly, there’s a rom-com/modern fairytale undertone that I didn’t expect in a book that addresses a lot of hard topics (racism, sexual abuse, homophobia…). Maybe too many at once. The real-life mood and the too-good-to-be-true resolutions undermine each other. I don’t know if it’s because it’s YA and it’s supposed to be uplifting? Even as a young adult, I’ve always liked my books a little edgier. That said, Yolanda Wallace can write, I’ve loved a lot of her books, and as stated above, there’s a lot in this one that makes it worth reading.


The Frenemy Zone @ / Kobo / amazon

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