This memoir’s unique eyewitness view of epochal events makes it essential reading for an understanding of those times—and...

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    Best Books Of 2016

MARCH

BOOK THREE

A living icon of the civil rights movement brings his frank and stirring account of the movement’s most tumultuous years (so far) to a climax.

As chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee between 1963 and 1966, Lewis was directly involved in both public demonstrations and behind-the-scenes meetings with government officials and African-American leaders. He recalls both with unflinching honesty in this trilogy closer carrying his account from the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church to his eventual break with SNCC’s increasingly radical elements. Alternating stomach-turning incidents of violence (mostly police violence)—including his own vicious clubbing on the Selma to Montgomery march’s “Bloody Sunday”—with passages of impassioned rhetoric from many voices, he chronicles the growing fissures within the movement. Still, despite the wrenching realization that “we were in the middle of a war,” he steadfastly holds to nonviolent principles. The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act marks the end of his account, though he closes with a final look ahead to the night of Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Powell’s high-contrast black-and-white images underscore the narrative's emotional intensity with a parade of hate-filled white faces and fearful but resolute black ones, facing off across a division that may not be as wide as it was then but is still as deep.

This memoir’s unique eyewitness view of epochal events makes it essential reading for an understanding of those times—and these. (Graphic memoir. 11 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60309-402-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.

ALL WE HAVE LEFT

This election cycle, with its exacerbated Islamophobia, makes author Mills' (Positively Beautiful, 2015) fictive meditation on 9/11 and the 15 years after especially timely.

The book opens with Travis McLaurin, a 19-year-old white man trying to protect Alia Susanto, a 16-year-old hijab-wearing Indonesian-American Muslim, from the debris caused by the South Tower's destruction. The next chapter takes place 15 years later, with Travis' younger sister, Jesse, defacing a building with an Islamophobic slogan before the police catch her. The building, readers learn later, is the Islam Peace Center, where Jesse must do her community service for her crime. Between these plot points, the author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia ("There's a galaxy between us, hung thick with stars of hurt and disappointment) and Jesse ("I'm caught in a tornado filled with the jagged pieces of my life") as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day.

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate. (timeline, author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-343-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

A fast-paced, satisfying historical novel with a gutsy heroine and an intriguing 19th-century mystery at its core.

THE GILDED CAGE

Newfound family wealth draws a teenage Virginia farm girl into a murder mystery set in upper-crust England in the 1820s.

Sixteen-year-old Katherine is handy with a rifle and well-versed in the demands of farm life. But after the death of her grandfather, a wealthy English gentleman, Katherine and her older brother, George, are whisked away to Walthingham Hall, their new home and unexpected inheritance. With the help of her cousins Grace and Henry, Katherine attempts to adjust to life on the sprawling English estate and to the restrictive culture of the rich. But the day after Katherine and George’s formal introduction to high society, aspiring artist George drowns under mysterious circumstances. Katherine is convinced that George’s death was no accident, but the list of possible suspects—including the Beast of Walthingham, a wild creature rumored to stalk the estate—is anything but solid. Fragile too are Katherine’s own safety and sanity, as she mourns her brother and searches for his killer. Katherine’s romantic longings are woven quite deftly into this mystery, but she’s no damsel in distress—a fact that will resonate with readers who enjoy smart, resourceful characters. Katherine’s boldness and lack of pretension, as well as the novel’s strong plot and crisp dialogue, will appeal even to those who aren’t fans of the stuffy, sterile pre-Victorian era. Unsurprisingly, given the setting, all of the principal characters are white.

A fast-paced, satisfying historical novel with a gutsy heroine and an intriguing 19th-century mystery at its core. (Historical mystery. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-181-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

THE MEMORY BOOK

A high school valedictorian with big plans to flee her small town gets a degenerative genetic disease.

Two months ago, 18-year-old Sammie was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C. People with NPC usually die as children; it’s extremely rare for symptoms not to appear until adolescence, so Sammie’s timeline is unknown. NPC brings dementia and systemic physical deterioration—as Sammie edits Wikipedia to say, “Your shit is fucked.” To create a bulwark against memory loss, she documents her life on a laptop she carries everywhere, addressing it to Future Sam, who she still hopes can leave Vermont behind for NYU. Her narrative voice is sardonic, distinctive, wildly intelligent, and sometimes hilarious: her parents’ church is “angular…and white, like most of its parishioners” (including her family, presumably). Sammie’s first debacle is losing a national debate tournament due to a dementia episode smack in the middle. Fluctuations in cognitive function show in her narrative voice. She needs tooth-brushing reminder notes; she regresses in age and doesn’t recognize her youngest sister. At one point she fills three pages typing “die.” Yet over this summer that should have been pre-college, Sammie experiences romance, reconnects with a childhood friend and with her bucolic mountainside, and writes minibios about her young siblings that extend to their adulthoods, giving them the long futures that she won’t have. Readers will feel her mind and heart shifting with the illness.

Indelible. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: July 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-28377-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

An insightful, original take on the coming-of-age story, this novel plumbs the depths of American culture to arrive at a...

AMERICAN GIRLS

A bright, prickly teenager struggles to find her place while spending a summer exploring the contradictions of Hollywood, replete with beautiful actors, has-been pop stars, and the specter of the Manson girls.

Umminger's debut novel follows 15-year-old Anna, a smart, cynical white girl who escapes a complicated home situation by "borrowing" her stepmother's credit card to run away to Los Angeles. There, she reunites with her actress sister for the summer and is recruited by her sister's dubious director (and ex-boyfriend) to research the Manson girls for his film project. The more time Anna spends tagging along on TV and film sets, the more she begins to notice the surprising ways in which the subtle yet pervasive emotional violence in her own life and the lives of those around her mirror the personal histories of the Manson girls, who were, after all, once "regular" girls. Setting her tale against the glittery, gritty backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, the author deftly weaves together multiple story strands to create a razor-sharp commentary on our culture, observed with keen wit from the perspective of one honest and complex American girl.

An insightful, original take on the coming-of-age story, this novel plumbs the depths of American culture to arrive at a poignant emotional truth. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07500-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

With an absorbing plot and believable dialogue, this novel demonstrates respect for teens’ fears and desires, ending on a...

READ ME LIKE A BOOK

Life is messy, people are imperfect—but Ashleigh learns that love really is all you need in this bighearted story of honesty and acceptance.

Parents who are fighting incessantly, a best friend whose path is diverging from her own, a boyfriend who wants their physical relationship to progress faster than she’s comfortable with—these are just a few of the things Ash is wrestling with. As if that weren’t enough, although usually an indifferent student, the white teen finds her new English A-level teacher, Miss Murray, inexplicably entrancing. A self-proclaimed “expert at skirting around anything that might resemble a genuine feeling,” Ash tries to ignore her problems in the vain hope that they will somehow go away, but instead she finds that the only thing that vanishes is her closeness to the people she loves. Taking risks both large and small—and growing from them—is a recurring theme of this story, from Ash’s shoplifting on a dare with a rebellious friend to coming out to her parents on her 18th birthday. The English setting (including frequent pub visits and colorful slang) adds a rich dimension, as do the well-rounded characters whose flaws make them all the more sympathetic.

With an absorbing plot and believable dialogue, this novel demonstrates respect for teens’ fears and desires, ending on a hopeful note that steers clear of unconvincing platitudes. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8131-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

Like a space explorer, Tara is thrust into the uncharted territory of life and must decide how she will navigate this new...

MIRROR IN THE SKY

New friends and the discovery of a new planet cause one teen to question her life on Earth—and beyond.

With her best (and only) friend spending a year abroad, Tara faces her junior year of high school as a loner. Even though she’s biracial Indian-American (with an Indian father and white mother) and stands out as the only person of color at her elite Greenwich, Connecticut, private school, the 16-year-old often feels invisible. But her world’s about to change when NASA receives a response to their Arecibo message and confirms a mirror planet, dubbed Terra Nova, and she’s invited to a party at popular Halle’s estate home. This quiet, thoughtful debut novel doesn’t bound with adventure, yet Tara’s internalized angst and quest for identity make the story a quick read. Beautiful language and mature, realistic adolescent situations flourish as Tara considers quantum physics and philosophical theories and whether a different or even better version of herself exists on the parallel planet. And are there other versions of the important people in her life? A mother who stays at home rather than joining a planet-worshipping cult? Another Nick, who loves her and doesn’t orbit around Halle? True friends?

Like a space explorer, Tara is thrust into the uncharted territory of life and must decide how she will navigate this new part of herself. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59514-856-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

A wickedly funny examination of what it means to choose your own destiny.

THIS IS NOT THE END

A teenage outcast discovers he is the key to the world’s undoing.

James Salley is a white teen without any support system. Something about James has always rubbed people the wrong way. He’s ignored by his endlessly busy parents, and the only person at school who pays him any attention is a bully. Then the new school librarian shows an interest in James, taking him under his wing and informing him of his true destiny. It turns out James is the Antichrist, the chosen one who will begin the War to end all wars. James’ world is soon turned upside down, with murderous zealots tracking him down and mythical creatures coming to his aid, and to top it all off, James’ crush is finally starting to pay attention to him. Jordan seamlessly weaves the high-concept weirdness with typical teen tropes and smartly fleshes out all of his characters with interior lives, making them leap off the pages and into readers’ imaginations and hearts. As James waffles between his conflicting desires to just be a regular kid and to make all who made him miserable pay, readers will probably be able to figure out what choice he will eventually make, but a last-minute twist on James’ dilemma is the cherry on top of this absurdly funny and affecting novel.

A wickedly funny examination of what it means to choose your own destiny. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-94254-630-6

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Medallion Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener.

STEEPLEJACK

From the Steeplejack series , Vol. 1

This latest novel from Hartley (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 2014, etc.), his debut for teens, is social commentary masquerading as crime fiction masquerading as fantasy.

The book opens with a murder and a mystery: the invaluable luxorite stone that lights the Beacon at the heart of Bar-Selehm is stolen, and Berrit, a young Lani boy, is found dead at the bottom of a spire. Hartley’s fictional world is dense and rich. Though heavy with exposition in the beginning, the plot deftly explores the economic and political entanglements of the native black Mahweni, the white settlers from Feldesland, and the brown Lani people the Feldish brought as servants. Determined to get justice for her would-be apprentice, Lani steeplejack and narrator Anglet Sutonga discovers that Berrit’s death is but a small part in a larger conspiracy to gain wealth and power at any cost. The diverse cast of characters reflects the varying classes and races that intersect and clash in the post-colonial city. The close first-person perspective keeps readers’ hearts pounding as Anglet draws ever closer to the truth. The tension stays taut throughout the book, heightened with each precipice Anglet climbs: if she falls, the city goes to war.

Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8342-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

An eminently satisfying series opener for mystery fans who want their downtrodden detectives to be appealing, clever, and...

PROPERTY OF THE STATE

From the Legend of Joey series , Vol. 1

Foster teen Joey narrates events as he slowly uncovers a convoluted mystery, with a soupçon of romance added for spice.

Taciturn Joey, a long-term foster kid, has learned not to actually voice the thoughts in his head and is aiming for early graduation and emancipation as soon as possible. But just because he doesn’t talk much doesn’t mean he’s stupid. His clever internal commentary adds humor to this biting account of the alternative high school he attends, his classmates, and their families. Joey attempts to tread as lightly as he can, going to class and to his daily cleaning job at the home of a wealthy chess prodigy. He also cultivates a relationship with Trisha, a classmate and fellow foster kid who seems to have won the foster-parent sweepstakes. When Joey’s foster father watches porn on his school-issued laptop, it’s caught by sentry software, and Joey immediately is in a kind of trouble that seems to just build. Beaten up, homeless, and completely smitten by Trisha, Joey finds his curiosity and his attempts to solve his immediate problems uncovering hidden truths that lead to the solving of interconnected mysteries amid an eruption of violence. Joey’s voice is raw and engaging, both foulmouthed and inclined to wordplay, and his supporting cast, though not notably diverse, is equally well-drawn.

An eminently satisfying series opener for mystery fans who want their downtrodden detectives to be appealing, clever, and unafraid of action. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-92934-522-9

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Poisoned Pencil

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

A poignant and important story about compassion, love, and the decision to live life on your own terms—right up to the very...

THE LOOSE ENDS LIST

A cancer diagnosis derails a teen’s summer plans.

In her wildest dreams, white and privileged Maddie Levine never could have imagined that she’d spend the summer before college anywhere other than with her best girlfriends, kissing boys and soaking up sun at the club. She certainly never imagined that her beloved grandmother and family matriarch would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and whisk the whole family off on an eight-week, “death-with-dignity” cruise as her final farewell. While readers know from the very beginning how this story will end, they will be surprised to discover that the journey is far more about life than death. Maddie’s first-person account is filled with humor and fun, introducing readers to a raunchy, heartwarming, and endearingly dysfunctional family. The story is made all the richer by a cast of quirky supporting characters that includes her two gay uncles, a sweet and slutty cousin, her larger-than-life grandmother, and a small handful of terminal patients and their families who are celebrating and grieving alongside them. Best of all is the achingly romantic love story that unexpectedly blossoms between Maddie and a fellow shipmate and lends the story much-appreciated moments of passion and levity.

A poignant and important story about compassion, love, and the decision to live life on your own terms—right up to the very last minute: all aboard. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38282-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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