by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
In Elise Bryant's Reggie and Delilah's Year of Falling (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), we meet Delilah and Reggie, two teenagers who first run into each other on a random encounter on New Year's Eve and whose paths continue to cross on holidays until they decide to start getting together on purpose and seek out holidays to help make that happen.
We read this one as an Unabridged Buddy Read in December, and we had great discussions about it!
At the beginning of the book, Reggie meets Delilah as she's experiencing a migraine right after giving a phenomenal first performance as the lead singer of a punk rock band. Because he's so wowed by her (and because he unintentionally wore a super nerdy t-shirt), he pretends to have a lot more confidence than he actually feels, and he leans into the Black nerd vibe that he usually tries to hide from other people.
Delilah is struggling to find her way as she has been thrust into the spotlight through the band's success. She's enjoying the gigs and is proud of their following, but she's quickly discovering how limited her role is in the band and that her other band members do not see her as an equal contributor. She's both pleased with their sudden success and is also worried that some of the popularity has to do with her as a token Black singer in the punk rock scene, something her band members do not get at all and dismiss when she tries to share it with them.
Reggie loves all aspects of D&D quests but also enjoys digging into some of the dark underbelly of the predominantly white gaming community, but he likes to do that from a safely anonymous place where he doesn't have to truly face the criticism of his family, who do not understand or respect his passion, nor of online trolls. However, as opportunities to share his thoughts more openly come up, he has to confront whether he can truly be the person he pretends to be in front of Delilah or whether to stay safe and hidden.
Reggie and Delilah's encounters coincidentally happen on holidays beginning on New Year's Eve, but once they both notice the trend, they start seeking out holiday opportunities to have excuses to get together again. These two characters are so lovable and well crafted, but they also both have times when they need to get out of their own way, which is so authentic and adds depth to this budding romance.
I found myself rooting for these two young people right from the start, and I loved the way that Bryant developed each of them independent from each other. I especially appreciate the way that Bryant incorporates Reggie's dyslexia and Delilah's debilitating migraines into the story - both are authentic representations that deepen the issues in the story. I also really love that while both of them have unique struggles, they also both relate to each other as they each ask meaningful questions about what it means to find their true selves and to stand in that identity, even when it is different than the limited view others might have of them. I love their true friends in the story, who lift them up and support them throughout their journeys.
This is a feel-good story full of depth that will have you cheering for Reggie and Delilah.
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