I’m a fan of Julian Winters and I was so excited for As You Walk On By. And this recent release is one about friendship and love. About being open to new friends and calling out old ones. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Seventeen-year-old Theo Wright has it all figured out. His plan (well, more like his dad’s plan) is a foolproof strategy that involves exceling at his magnet school, getting scouted by college recruiters, and going to Duke on athletic scholarship. But for now, all Theo wants is a perfect prom night. After his best friend Jay dares Theo to prompose to his crush at Chloe Campbell’s party, Theo’s ready to throw caution to the wind and take his chances.
But when the promposal goes epically wrong, Theo seeks refuge in an empty bedroom while the party rages on downstairs. Having an existential crisis about who he really is with and without his so-called best friend wasn’t on tonight’s agenda. Though, as the night goes on, Theo finds he’s not as alone as he thinks when, one by one, new classmates join him to avoid who they’re supposed be outside the bedroom door. Among them, a familiar acquaintance, a quiet outsider, an old friend, and a new flame . . .
As someone whose worst fear is to be rejected, As You Walk On By struck a chord. Theo is a character who is an instant favorite. He’s a secret romantic at heart, obsessed with making the best impression – who isn’t? – and trying to reconcile his idea of success with his dad’s. This recent release balances conversations about calling out our friend’s microaggressions, at the very least, to the pressure of being a person of color and knowing we have to be a role model.
That our actions are never seen in a vacuum. At the same time, As You Walk On By is rooted in friendship. It’s about having to figure out if a friendship can survive someone being checked on their privilege and comments. It’s also about new friends, about finding people who accept our multi-faceted lives, and recognizing our mistakes. Winter’s latest book is a celebration of friendship and of making amends.
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Realizing that it’s not enough to not be actively spreading rumors or hurtful comments, we have to speak out. That it’s hard to break our old habits, but that work is the most important. We should be open to new possibilities, people, and experiences. If you love books about characters who have to navigate complex friendships and also ask ourselves what kind of person we want to be, pick this one up. Find As You Walk On By on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Bookshop.org, & Blackwells.