As I type this, I’m wearing a paper mask strapped across my face. That’s because I’m in a public space using a public computer. I can’t afford my own personal computer, something that I rather regret these days. I’m more or less used to the mask but I can’t discount it entirely, especially when it gets damp with sweat or saliva. Then it feels like I’ve got a moist towelette pressed against my breathing passages. It’s moments like these when I really despise Covid-19.
This is the first book I’ve read regarding the current pandemic. I’ve read other novels dealing with contagions and epidemics, real and imagined, historical and otherwise. So I admit to being rather intrigued by where the story is leading.
The contemporary tone renders it personal and on topic. It’s not a subject that’s about age, gender, status, wealth, sexuality or nationality. It’s about a situation that touches everybody and is recent enough so everyone can remember what those first few hectic days were like.
Jonah and Maxine are two likeable kids on opposite sides of the social spectrum. But the pandemic means they’re literally in the same boat, trying to cope with friends, family and strangers who need varying levels of care. Jonah has anxiety issues while Max is trying to make ends meet by becoming a personal shopper. Max strikes me as a scrappy girl, one who probably would be raking people’s lawns, babysitting their kids, walking dogs and shoveling sidewalks in other circumstances. She believes, as does her mother, in the Protestant work ethic: work hard, save your money and defer pleasure.
Jonah, being a rich kid, wears polo shirts at home and has a father who worked as a lawyer. Yet still he gets outfoxed by Max at their very first encounter. I like her; I’m amused by him. They’re teenagers and yet the pandemic means they’re forced to think outside of an adolescent’s typical quotidian concerns. This story promises heartbreak and pain but is enlivened with the breezy tone of two people meeting under unusual circumstances and trying to make the best of it.