I wish I knew a high schooler I could give this book to. The whole time I was (re)reading it I just kept wishing I'd had it when I was 15 because I probably would have really liked it then and I'd have nostalgic feelings about it reading now in my 20s. As it is though, I'm not in high school anymore and I'm not angsty and I don't really relate to these characters or this story. It is kind of cool to see how O'Malley has progressed as a storyteller through Lost at Sea, Scott Pilgrim and Seconds though. Seconds definitely did it for me, and I'd recommend reading it over Lost at Sea.
This book definitely deserves all the praise it's gotten. It's one of the real-est YA novels I think I've ever read. It's a great depiction of bullying, and I love the concentration on female relationships (loving and antagonistic).
I also love the fact that the book says "let's make it better" (vs "it gets better). I read it so quickly, I think I'll definitely need to reread to get all my thoughts together. But the only thing I didn't like on this reading was a bit of bad basketball writing (how can you tell what position someone's playing on offense when they're on defense?).
I preferred Engle's The Lightning Dreamer to Tropical Secrets. The writing and the story of The Lightning Dreamer was just more interesting to me. But Tropical Secrets was still good (I read it in one sitting). It covered a bit of history I knew nothing about (Jewish refugees in Cuba). I don't know that I'm going to go out and read all I can about Jewish refugees now,* but I'm glad I learned something from the book.
*Though maybe I should. There seem to be a lot of interesting stories out there. Just this year I read both Tropical Secrets and Passage to Freedom: the Sugihara Story.