Review Blog

Apr 03 2019

Izzy + Tristan by Shannon Dunlap

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Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9781510104358.
(Age: 15+) Themes : race, romance, chess, gangs, drugs, school relationships, mental health. This book ends with the same words it starts with. 'This is not a novel. It's a romance.' It is a story about romance, one of fierce longing and desire to be with the one you love. It is a modern day love story of two people with totally different backgrounds and a typical 'star crossed lovers' feel to it.
Tristan is an African American teenager living with his Aunt while his father comes to terms with his mother's untimely death. Even though he has lived with his Aunt for two years and has a tight family bond with Marcus his street smart cousin, Tristan doesn't feel like he belongs there. Marcus is confident and a con artist with a posse who cling onto his every word. Tristan is a chess wizard and academic and Marcus uses this to his advantage by setting up matches between unsuspecting opponents and his cousin for cash. Tristan isn't comfortable with this but doesn't feel he can stand up to Marcus, and despite their close family bond, Tristan feels a little intimidated by him.
Izzy's parents have moved Izzy and her twin brother Hull into a new neighbourhood and new school, hoping for new experiences for their family but things don't go quite as well as they had hoped. They are a white family in a borough of predominantly mixed races and the perception of them is of a rich white family living amongst the not so fortunate. Hull is also a wiz at chess and an encounter with Marcus and Tristan takes an unexpected turn.
Meanwhile Izzy and Tristan first meet in class and it is almost love at first sight. Even after the incident involving her twin and Tristan, Izzy isn't put from her attraction to him and a clandestine relationship evolves. Unfortunately, Marcus also has his eye on Izzy and the two of them decide against telling Marcus of their love. Izzy's friend Brianna is secretly in love with Marcus and she tries not to let it bother her that Marcus is in love with Izzy but as is always the case with blind love, decisions can blur peoples misguided intentions. Friends and family bonds are fractured, and the reader is kept on their toes waiting to see what eventuates.
As the story evolves it becomes apparent that a critical incident is imminent despite the couples' struggle to keep their relationship going. Whilst it appears that some relationships are mending there is still that underlying feeling of foreboding. The ending is expected in some ways and surprising in others.
This would be a good comparative text for Romeo and Juliet.
I would give this book to 15+ readers because of some of the language and themes (minimal).
Gerri Mills

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