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On the surface, Signs Point to Yes (Swoon Reads) is seemingly a fluffy, feel-good romance. The book shifts third person perspectives between that of Jane, her sister Margo, and Jane’s crush Teo. You might never know it from the flowery genre-typical cover, but inside this book is more diversity than you’re likely to find in your average young adult romance novel.
Jane blows off an unpaid internship secured by her mom to nanny three girls who coincidentally are the sisters of her long-time crush, Teo. Jane is floundering the year after her high school graduation. Unsure of a college or major, or even if she wants to attend school at all, the Buchannan’s house is a happy escape. Her young charges keep her hands full and give her a reason to interact with Teo.
On the other hand, Teo is juggling his summer job as a lifeguard with the absence of his best friend Ravi (Jane’s nemesis, who is in Sri Lanka with his mom), and the uncomfortable bro-type friendship his stepfather is trying to forge with him. His favored form of escapism is searching the internet for his absent biological father. Although more and more, the new nanny is proving to be a fun distraction.
Margo is home from summer vacation and struggling with how to come out as bisexual to her family. She also keeps running into Kara, who might or might not be queer and might or might not be interested in Margo.
There’s a ton to like about this book. It’s a quick, easy read. I finished it in a couple of hours. It’s the best sort of brain candy because even in places where the plot is a stretch, the snappy dialog and likable characters keep things moving. And it’s pretty diverse by general standards. Most of the Buchanans and Ravi are people of color. Margo and Kara (who isn’t a major character, but counts for representation) are both queer.
There are a couple of points in the book that leave me wanted more well-rounded resolutions–Ravi hates Jane for a reason that leaves my plot itch a little unscratched and Margo’s eventual coming out to her parents is done hastily in the shadow of Jane’s running away to rescue Teo. It’s not a perfect book, nor is it meant to be. If I have one major bone to pick, it’s that Margo’s plot could have been integrated more. As the book stands, she seems to have been mostly put in to add a little queer flavor to an otherwise boy-girl love story. That isn’t the worst thing, and I appreciate the effort, but her story line seemed kind of stilted and forced at times. The book is heavy on the Teo and Jane romance, but I might have liked to see more in the way of Margo’s personal interactions with Kara rather than some light poolside flirting and a steamy garage make out session that seemed to come out of nowhere. The characters all had clearly individual voices, motivations, and story lines, but it was pretty clear right away that Jane was the main character and Teo and Margo were defined by their relationship to her.
Often commercial fiction is criticized for not being more literary, which discounts the accessibility and pleasure of reading a book for fun. Signs’ is that sort of book. The characters will stick with you after you’ve finished. More than being fun, it’s well crafted. Hall has put a lot of planning and work into a book that reads seamlessly. Signs is absent of heavy-handed lessons but not without intelligent, feminist takeaways.
Signs Point to Yes
By Sandy Hall
Paperback, 9781250066008, 288 pp.