100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze (Clayton Zane Comber, HarperCollins)
Xander Maze’s best friend is his Nanna. When she is diagnosed with stage four cancer and asks him to write a list of 100 Remarkable Feats for him to achieve that could save her, how can he resist? Especially because lists are Xander’s favourite thing to compile. They keep him calm and help him understand the world. But so many of the remarkable feats he comes up with force him to interact with people in ways that he never has before, such feat #9: Ask Ally Collins on a date, or feat #10: Kiss a girl (preferably Ally Collins). However, Xander finds that seemingly simple tasks like feat #2: Make a friend, and feat #3: Make a best friend, might be the hardest to complete of all. Xander’s quest to save his Nanna is noble, if naive, and while he can explain the origin of almost every metaphor and idiom he uses, he can’t seem to explain how completing the list will actually cure cancer. Xander’s disconnect from the workings of human interaction may be a result of his mother’s helicopter parenting or an undiagnosed (and undiscussed) autism-spectrum worldview. This coming-of-age, pay-it-forward rom-com is filled with moments of poignancy for the reader, even as Xander says he doesn’t understand them himself. 100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze is ideal for younger YA readers who are looking for something moving without being too meaty.
Michael Earp is a writer and manager of The Little Bookroom.