Henri Haltiwanger is the founding father of his own dog-walking business, a valued member of the debate crew and a popular kid at New York’s prestigious FATE Academy. He attributes his fulfillment to his capital-S Smiles and his cautiously cultivated potential to charm pretty much anyone. That capability is especially critical now, as Henri, a first-technology Haitian American, counts down the days till he receives his Columbia University attractiveness letter, to be able to satisfy his parents’ “American dream” for him. But whilst a classmate named Corinne starts blackmailing him into helping her improve her social status, Henri discovers that his trademark charm might not be his price ticket to the American dream after all, and that his dream might not be precisely what he concept it was.
As he did in his debut novel, the William C. Morris Award-winning The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, Ben Philippe yet again locations readers directly inside the thoughts of a lovable but mistaken protagonist. Henri’s conspiratorial and, yes, captivating narration feels like he’s letting us in on mystery after mystery as he navigates the challenges of senior year, college applications, own family pressure and friendships. Henri makes some extreme mistakes, and it’s satisfying to observe him evolve into a more honest, open and susceptible person.
Philippe has a real knack for developing wealthy casts of assisting characters who bring his protagonists’ worlds to life. Here, this consists of Henri’s devoted parents, his sneaker-obsessed great friend, Ming, as well as the scholars and college who populate his high school experience. And of course, there’s Corinne, an academic dynamo who marches to the beat of her personal drum, harking back to other ambitious yet socially awkward teens inclusive of Paris Geller of “Gilmore Girls” or Rushmore’s Max Fischer. Philippe renders every man or woman as a individual with their own aspirations and imperfections.
Give Charming as a Verb to readers searching out a dynamic YA romp, a hint of romance and the permission to impeach whether or not what they’ve usually dreamed of is really what they want.