A blood-soaked, laugh-filled, tear-drenched, endlessly compelling read

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SPONTANEOUS

A small New Jersey town is rocked by a disastrous phenomenon.

Mara Carlyle’s senior year is just beginning when Katelyn Ogden blows up—literally—during pre-calc. After the blood is cleaned off the walls and the class tries to move on, another student pops like a balloon during a therapy session. And then another combusts on the football field during the big game. The spontaneous combustions spread through the senior class in Mara’s suburban town, claiming kids of all colors, creeds, and class, seemingly sparing no one. No one but Mara, that is. As the white teen does her best to adapt to the increasingly absurd circumstances surrounding her, Starmer weaves a dark and hilarious tale that is unafraid to provoke laughs and chills in equal measure. Mara strikes the perfect balance between snark and smarts, providing quips and heart in equal measure. Her relationship with ice cream–truck–driving mystery boy Dylan, also white, deepens as their classmates burst all around them, and their love story is just as compelling as the mystery behind the explosions. The author has no trouble pushing these characters through hell, but the book reaches true greatness when readers see them on the other side and explore what’s left of them. Subplots involving an opportunistic scientist, a foulmouthed president, and a badass FBI agent push this one into must-read territory.

A blood-soaked, laugh-filled, tear-drenched, endlessly compelling read . (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42974-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...

DEAR MARTIN

In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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