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Getting feelings under control in the great outdoors

Cover of Highly Suspicious and Unfa
A review of Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

Celine Bangura dreams of landing a coveted spot in a prestigious mentorship program. Her grades are tops and her popular conspiracy theory TikTok attracts thousands of followers. Unfortunately, there's one thing standing in her way: Bradley Graeme. Best friends for years, Celine and Brad parted ways when Brad wanted to expand his friendship circle and Celine felt heartbroken and left behind. Making matters worse, Bradley's friends treat Celine horribly. Branded a weirdo because of her obsession with alien abductions, Bradley's popular athlete friends not only reject Celine, they openly harass her. 

After several years of high school, Bradley and Celine's friendship is nonexistent and they've transitioned to uncomfortable foes. The two constantly compete for the top spot in their academic year and show no signs of a reconciliation. Then, the big moment happens. Through a chance encounter and unfortunate accident, Bradley unintentionally injures Celine. To make amends, he drives Celine to an informational session about her dream mentorship program and decides he wants to participate as well.

The mentorship program requires a rigorous outdoor challenge that takes place over several months. The participants with the highest scores for leadership, survival and overall success win college scholarships. Celine and Bradley have different reasons for needing college scholarships, some obvious, others beneath the surface, and they need to work together to problem solve, face obstacles and resolve the feelings that keep messing with their happiness.  

Smart, funny, and cool, with unbelievable banter and camping extraordinaire, this clever young adult novel takes place in the UK with the final outdoor challenge in a drool worthy Scottish locale. Celine and Bradley are adorably honest/dishonest teen main characters and author Talia Hibbert writes about disability and trauma with care and gentle awareness. An awards ball wraps up the storyline with a big bow and fancy apparel in the best possible, most satisfying way.

May 1, 2023