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Lonely Oregon 11-year-old Millie Nakakura has been home-schooled by intense parents who pressure her to excel at the flute, something she has grown to hate. They finally allow her to enroll at an arts academy, where she is overwhelmed by teachers’ unstated expectations. Socially adrift, she finds solace in her passion for Japanese pop quintet Generation Love. Then she meets Tina “Zuki” Suzuki through after-school J-Club. The club of two grows to five as social misfits Ashley Seo and Rainbow Chan and popular girl Luna Acevedo find their way in. But it’s not smooth sailing: Zuki is hiding serious problems at home, Ashley and Luna have an obviously tense history, Luna keeps her participation secret from her queen bee friends who viciously bully vegan Rainbow, and Millie lies to her parents about her failing grades and forbidden extracurricular activity. Their decision to enter a school show as a Generation Love cover act complicates matters; figuring everything out involves self-awareness and genuine contrition. At times the characters’ voices sound too mature for sixth grade, but everyone in this well-paced story grows emotionally, showing what loyal, courageous, and humanly imperfect relationships look like. Millie is half Japanese (her other half is not specified); other characters’ ethnicities are cued by their surnames, and Ashley is nonbinary.

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