IN A HEARTBEAT

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Seventeen-year-old Lucien Quan wants a change of scenery. His two moms were very supportive when he came out as trans, and his Toronto school became an even safer place when a more popular student came out as nonbinary, but he wants to figure himself out without all that attention. His aunt Jean agrees to house him in British Columbia for a semester, but upon arrival Lucien worries he made a mistake—he’s sleeping in an unfinished basement; they’re not accommodating his vegan, gluten-avoidant diet; and his cousins and uncle are buffoonish paragons of toxic masculinity. In a convenient meet-cute, he literally falls into the arms of gorgeous Alder, whom everyone seems to have a story about. In this short rom-com, Lucien meets other queer and trans denizens of the small town of Vernon and starts dating Alder, who doesn’t clearly communicate their shared trans history until the end. This brief read with a simplified style intended for reluctant and struggling teen readers provides much-needed queer representation for this format, but almost every character, from Lucien’s crunchy lesbian moms to Alder’s overly supportive therapist parents to the meddling new friends, reads like a broadly drawn stereotype. Racial cues are largely absent; Lucien’s surname cues one of his moms as Chinese Canadian.

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