What’s ultimately lacking, though, is a compelling link between myth and contemporary tale.

GIL MARSH

Smart, handsome, athletic Gil Marsh, 17, hero of this contemporary take on the Gilgamesh epic (and first literary bromance) thinks he has no competition. Then hirsute Enko Labette shows up at Uruk High.

More than Gil’s equal, Enko’s popular, too. Infuriated, Gil provokes a physical confrontation that clears the air and, as the cliché provides, cements an intense, lasting bond between them. As in the epic, Bauer offers hints but ultimately punts on whether that bond is sexual. (Both date girls, but the boys’ passionate friendship is paramount.) After a few brief adventures, Enko succumbs to a sudden illness and dies. Grief-stricken, Gil flees high school in Connecticut for Canada, seeking Enko’s grave and the provenance of the garnet ring, a family heirloom, Enko gave him. Here the plot slows to a crawl. Though interspersed with evocative tidbits of Québécois history and culture, Gil’s quest, goals and expectations lack urgency and clarity. Does he really believe he can restore Enko to life? Enko himself fades into irrelevance as Gil’s focus turns to daily survival. Simple vocabulary, staccato style and straightforward syntax convey classic appeal and make this a good choice for reluctant readers. Genuine strengths include a likable hero and vivid sense of place.

What’s ultimately lacking, though, is a compelling link between myth and contemporary tale. (French glossary, author’s note) (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86933-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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