Charming As A Verb – Ben Philipp – Balzer + Bray – Published 8 September 2020





Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

My thoughts

As charming as its title and main character, Charming As A Verb is a sweet realistic novel about growing up, falling in love, and finishing high school.

Henri Haltiwanger, Halti to his friends, is a hard worker. He needs to be if he’s going to make into his dream college, the college he and his father have always planned. As well as balancing debate team and maintaining his grades at the prestigious FATE academy, Henri runs his own dog walking business. When a classmate figures out his business is less of a corporate company and more a one-man show, she blackmails him into helping her fix her image at school. If anyone can charm their way into the popular crowd, it’s Henri. But what starts as blackmail, quickly turns to friendship.

I love that we are getting more realistic fiction narrated by guys and guys of colour. This book is #ownvoices and has lots of diverse representation. Henri is first-generation Haitian. His father and mother immigrated and have worked hard to provide for Henri. Henri knows and sees the differences between himself and his classmates. He hides his apartment and his father’s work as the building caretaker from even his best friend. His mother is training to become a firefighter. I loved the little sections where his mother features. She is gone a lot, training or working a shift, but Henri and his father do everything they can to support her.

Henri has to make some tough decisions and he doesn’t alway choose the right thing. As he grows closer to Corinne, as the college of his dreams seems more and more impossible, he has to decide what he really wants from his future and what he is willing to risk for it.

Henri’s voice is authentic and charming – that’s his thing. But he is also funny. I loved his interactions with his friends, family and dog walking clients. He is a good son, but trying to balance his dad’s expectations with his own dreams and he isn’t sure what he wants.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Contemporary

Themes: High school, family, college, romance, design, friendship, dog walking.

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: Coarse language, f*** (16), sh** (20), as***** (5), di** (2), pi** (4). Sexual references, references to sexual relationships.

Representation: Black main characters – first generation immigrants. Asian best friend. Heterosexual relationships.

Published: 8 September 2020 by Balzer + Bray.

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 336 pages.


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