THE HENNA WARS

Bangladeshi Irish teen Nishat is obsessed with winning her school’s business competition—which entails outperforming the girl she has a crush on.

Nishat is tired of hiding the fact that she is lesbian. But when she comes out to her parents, they respond with cold silence. Devastated, Nishat struggles to cope by focusing on winning the entrepreneurial challenge and by trying to ignore her romantic feelings for Flávia, a biracial (Black Brazilian/White Irish) girl Nishat hasn’t seen since primary school. Nishat enters with a proposal for a business offering mehndi, or henna tattoos, a traditional Bangladeshi art form Nishat learned from her grandmother. Nishat is thrilled about showcasing her beloved Bengali culture—until Flávia decides to do a henna business as well, a choice that Nishat feels smacks of cultural appropriation. Worse, now Nishat isn’t sure if Flávia’s overtures are signs of genuine romantic interest or a tactic to sabotage Nishat’s business. With her ultrasupportive sister by her side, Nishat fights to be her truest, most visible self. Debut author Jaigirdar seamlessly weaves issues of racism and homophobia into a fast-moving plot peopled with richly drawn characters. Each conflict is resolved authentically and naturally, moving the story along at the perfect speed. The scenes between Flávia and Nishat simmer, and their mesmerizing relationship unfolds with just the right amount of complexity. Most satisfyingly, each character gets the ending she deserves.

Impossible to put down. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62414-9689

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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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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