This was an incredibly sweet and touching story about two boys finding love in a food truck over one summer in Arizona.
Max is athletic, popular, and happily out to his parents and close friends. At the start of the novel something has happened, on a date with a college boy things got out of control and Max doesn't know how to process and goes with his instincts - which is to clam up and keep a smile on his face. Certain things don't happen to real men.
Jordan has been emotionally supporting his mom since his father's death four years earlier. He has 80s synth pop and his two best friends, his dreams and his writing and is comfortable, if not content, with that. His mother has never recovered and with their house in jeopardy Jordan has brought his father's food truck out of retirement. Jordan's mom hires Max to cook in the truck when she can't handle the pressure.
Having only known each other by sight from school, things start awkwardly with Jordan's reflexive shutting out of the outside world and lack of confidence puts the business in jeopardy, but soon the two begin to find things in common and enjoy working together. It doesn't take long for romance to kindle, but both of them have serious issues they need to be honest about.
Konigsberg's genius with this novel is that he doesn't offer easy solutions for the problems Jordan and Max face. Rape, mental illness, learning how to be with another person emotionally and physically, making positive change in your relationships with friends and family - compounded with issues of masculinity and race - these things are difficult. The novel follows Max and Jordan's navigation through this territory and the reader doesn't have to be a teen to learn a lot from it. This book is such a positive force. The characters deal with a lot and yet this novel is funny and charming and a joy to read.
This is a book I needed twenty years ago. Things have changed so much for the better in recent years and there is a lot of work that needs to be done, and new challenges of course, but I'm thrilled that there are books of this quality being written and finding audiences.