Strangers in the Province of Joy

Young Adult

His family owns Ellis Plaza. Her mother cleans it. Azar Rousch is more than focused - she’s determined. She has big plans to excel in her studies and become the best she can be as an entrepreneur—and frilly chorus classes aren’t part of that strategy. But when she meets the affluent yet attractive Max Ellis in her choral studies class during her junior year of high school, her plans become less stringent. 

Max seems like he has it all—his family is rich, he seems nice enough, and he’s attractive. But as life begins to unravel for both Azar and Max, things prove to be heavier than they seem. Will Azar keep her focus and her faith in the midst of a great trial? Or will everything come crashing down as all that she holds dear begins to fall to pieces? 

While this novel has a great premise and is well thought out, in a few places the execution is lacking. For instance, the voices of the characters and some of their internalization seem a bit forced and unnatural to the reader. Moreover, the plot meanders for much of the first half, but readers will notice that the second half of the novel picks up a bit more steam. Readers will like Azar as the spunky yet naïve girl that she is, and may identify her with some of the teens in their own lives. Max is the tortured yet loveable character that readers of YA fiction will enjoy. Aside from blunders in execution, this is a book with good potential to engage readers. 

Mia Francis-Poulin