Title: We Have a Decision
Series: Mrs. Shaw’s Club: Book Two
Author: Steph Marie
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 231 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Teen Fiction
At a Glance: The characterizations in this novel are not explored much beyond the surface level, but the story is sweet and heartwarming, and its messages are delivered loud and clear.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: High school freshman, Danny Burns, loves life, art, and boys. From the outside, he looks like a happy-go-lucky guy with no concerns. He blows off the bullies and he’s an amazing friend. What people don’t know is that he’s had a boyfriend since the summer, and when Danny decides being a secret isn’t enough for him and tries to end it, it’s not as easy as he expects.
High school freshman, Noah Glass, thinks he knows exactly who he is, what he wants, and where he’s going. Unfortunately, when the strict religious rules he’s grown-up with don’t line up with him being able to have friendships with people he cares about, he begins to question his own beliefs.
Guidance Counselor, Mrs. Shaw, formed a special club forty years ago. Each year, she handpicks twelve students to participate, but no one knows what they talk about, and former students never tell.
Danny and Noah are two of the chosen this year. When Mrs. Shaw partners them up, their lives begin to alter in ways that they couldn’t have imagined. While Danny is confronted with a stalking ex, Noah begins to question his values. As their friendship grows within the nurturing circle of Club Shaw, will that foundation be enough to get them through the troubles ahead? Will Noah be strong enough to set aside his preconceived notions and be there for Danny? Will Danny trust in Noah’s friendship and strength to help him move on from his ex to give the new guy Noah introduces him to a chance?
Review: High school counselor Mrs. Shaw is a rare gem. She’s been throwing diverse groups of kids together every year for forty years now—athletes, introverts, shy kids, gay kids, ethnically and racially and religiously diverse students—into a club in which each of the dozen handpicked members is paired with another. With the help of a little intuition and maybe some finger-crossing, Mrs. Shaw’s objective is that ‘magic’ will begin to weave its spell over the group, a magic which appears to be rooted in simple kindness, basic empathy, compassion and understanding, with the hope the kids will build friendships that transcend their differences, friendships that would likely not have happened if not for Mrs. Shaw’s intervention.
We Have a Decision, though the second book in the series, is a standalone and belongs solely to Danny Burns and Noah Glass, two boys who couldn’t be more opposite but who become the best of friends and, in the process, help and support each other’s journeys. Danny is a freshman, an out and proud gay kid, warm and caring, flamboyant and doesn’t care that he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he’s a great friend to everyone—but he has something to hide. When we meet Danny, he’s just become the dirty little secret of closeted senior, Doug, who can’t risk being outed for fear of ruining his chances at a baseball scholarship. It was next to impossible not to embrace Danny and his exuberance, and I adored him from the start while also wondering what he was doing with a twatwaffle like Doug. This served as a minor issue for me, as Doug’s character is so stereotypically, one-dimensionally jock-dudebro-ish that I did a lot of side-eyeing at the juxtaposition of Danny the sweetheart and Danny the sweetheart who’d fall for Doug’s line of crap. Basically, Doug made me want to barf, and I’m not sure whether he’s been left as a big plot hole or will be dealt with in a later installment of the series. He might make a good redemption story, if it’s the latter.
Noah, on the other hand, is the group’s ultra-religious kid, active and interested in more church related groups than in forming school relationships. He is so deeply indoctrinated in the church, in fact, that his being allowed to attend public school is even mentioned as an anomaly. Noah isn’t made out to be the antagonist of the story, not at all, he’s just a bit of an outlier at school, so of course his being paired up with Danny is going to bring into question and challenge every one of Noah’s church-bred ideals about being gay. However, this also serves as the catalyst that will encourage Noah’s own critical and independent thinking, because Danny is joy; he is kindness personified. How can someone whose thoughtfulness is on such broad display in every single thing he does be ‘less-than’? Danny is impossible to resist, and Noah doesn’t stand a chance. Especially as it becomes increasingly obvious that Noah’s best friend in the world, Josh, has a massive crush on Danny.
The characterizations in this novel are not explored much beyond the surface level, just enough to allow readers to understand these are all kids we, in some form or another, went to high school with. The impact of the story is more about the messages the author is delivering, and those come through loud and clear. We talk a lot about representation and the importance of diversity in books available to teen readers, and Steph Marie has done a fine job of offering a variety of voices in this story. While I cheered on the messages of love triumphing over hate, of friendship crossing borders and erasing boundaries, and Noah seeing beyond the Bible to the wonderful person and friend Danny is, I also wish We Have a Decision was going to reach the audience who needs these messages most. Unfortunately, that’s not the Dannys of the world. It’s the Noahs. More importantly, though, this story is out there, and that’s a good thing. It’s sweet and heartwarming, Danny is utterly endearing, Noah gets to be the good guy, and it’s one of those ‘aww’ reads that makes you smile at the end.
You can buy We Have a Decision here:
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