This sweet story shows that relationships don’t follow a recipe.

THE HEARTBREAK BAKERY

Syd navigates relationships and discovers a magical power.

After a rough breakup, 17-year-old Syd, who works at the Proud Muffin in Austin, Texas, bakes all the negative feelings into a batch of brownies. Unfortunately, Syd has also just unlocked a magical power, and the customers who buy the brownies start to go through breakups of their own—including the gay couple who own the bakery, putting its very survival at risk. Aided by genderfluid delivery person Harley, Syd is determined to repair these broken relationships. This may seem simple at first, but Syd soon discovers that no relationship is entirely cookie cutter. LGBTQ+ characters take center stage in this work, led by agender narrator Syd (who does not care for pronouns) and demisexual Harley; there’s a polyamorous triad among the supporting cast, and at one event, a nonbinary elderly person serves as a reminder that queer people come in all ages. While outright bigotry is not shown, Syd’s life demonstrates the difficulties of having to explain one’s orientation and gender and the burden of feeling unheard. Syd’s love of baking shines throughout the text, with actual recipes that Syd uses interspersed throughout. Over the course of the narrative, Syd examines different types of romantic feelings, from infatuation to love, and considers what precisely is key to a healthy relationship. Syd and Harley are White; the supporting cast is racially diverse.

This sweet story shows that relationships don’t follow a recipe. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1653-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE WAY I USED TO BE

In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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