Review: Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown

by Bill Konigsberg

Scholastic Press (imprint of Scholastic), 2022

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Emily Roth
In 1987, when two gay teens living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan meet by chance, both of their lives are forever changed. Micah is introverted and worried about upsetting his liberal Jewish parents when he inevitably comes out of the closet, while CJ is openly and unapologetically out. Micah finds himself instantly drawn to CJ, even though CJ compulsively lies to keep his past a secret. As Micah and CJ grow closer, and as Micah struggles to figure out if their connection is platonic or romantic, the AIDS crisis looms as a constant invisible threat over everything. Micah and CJ both go on incredibly compelling emotional journeys over the course of the novel, and secondary characters, such as Micah’s parents and his boss, are equally complex and well-drawn. Teen readers will enjoy the pop culture references and cameos from LGBTQ icons like Marsha P. Johnson, and will learn something from the historically accurate depiction of the socio-political atmosphere of 1980s New York. This warm, funny, and realistic novel is highly recommended for all teens, especially those interested in LGBTQ history.

Micah’s family’s Judaism does not play a large role in the novel, but rather it appears in small, natural-feeling details throughout. The family keeps a mezuzah on their front doorpost, Micah’s mom makes chicken kreplach soup for CJ, and a pivotal scene involves Micah’s parents attending a Hanukkah party. Reform readers will likely relate to Micah’s family and see something of their own experience reflected there.

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Reviewer Emily Roth (she/her/hers) is a youth services librarian, avid reader, and lifelong Midwesterner. Her short fiction has been published by The Masters Review, Reflex Fiction, Exposition Review, and others. She lives in Chicago with her rescue dog, Obie.