The use of extreme trauma to further this story’s development creates an unredeemable disconnect.

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HOME GIRL

Naomi Brisset, a 14-year-old white British girl in foster care, moves restlessly from home to home.

After Naomi accuses her latest foster father of being “a perv with a big prick P,” her social worker places her with a “second-generation British, West Indian” family, and Naomi begins to build familial connections with the parents, Tony and Colleen, who was also a foster child, and their two children, Pablo and Sharyna. Wheatle (Kerb-Stain Boys, 2018, etc.) has created a distasteful study in misogynoir, ableism, and homophobia. The book fast-tracks Naomi through situations where she leans into socially problematic scenarios with no apparent awareness: She begs her black foster mother to braid her hair so that she looks like Solange Knowles or Alicia Keys then is accused of cultural appropriation by a black girl who confronts her and is locked up in in-school suspension before being carted away. Wheatle's fictional Crongton leans into every negative stereotype of spaces where there are large concentrations of black communities. An opportunity to discuss issues of race in contemporary Britain is squandered when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is quoted out of context, with Tony’s father being labeled racist while Naomi’s own racist commentary is not interrogated. The only queer relationship and characters in the story are demonized through violent and degrading behavior.

The use of extreme trauma to further this story’s development creates an unredeemable disconnect. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61775-753-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Heavily meditative, this strange and heart-wrenching tale is stunningly original.

DIG

An estranged family’s tragic story is incrementally revealed in this deeply surreal novel.

Alternating narration among five teens, many of them unnamed but for monikers like The Freak, The Shoveler, and CanIHelpYou?, as well as an older married couple, Gottfried and Marla, and the younger of two violent and troubling brothers, an expansive net is cast. An unwieldy list of the cast featured in each part melds well with the frenetic style of this experimental work but does little to actually clarify how they fit together; the first half, at least, is markedly confusing. However, readers able to relax into the chaos will be richly rewarded as the strands eventually weave together. The bitingly sardonic voice of The Freak, who seems to be able to move through space and time, contrasts well with the understated, almost deadpan observations of The Shoveler, and the quiet decency of Malcolm and the angry snark of CanIHelpYou?, who is falling for her biracial (half white, half black) best friend, are distinctly different from Loretta’s odd and sexually frank musings. Family abuse and neglect and disordered substance use are part of the lives of many of the characters here, but it’s made clear that, at the root, this white family has been poisoned by virulent racism.

Heavily meditative, this strange and heart-wrenching tale is stunningly original. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-99491-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A story of coming out and coming-of-age in a post–9/11 world.

HOW IT ALL BLEW UP

As an Iranian American Muslim teen, Amir Azadi has long pondered what it would be like to come out to his parents.

In fact, he keeps a mental tally of all the positive and negative comments his parents make about gay people. But everything comes crashing down when school bullies photograph Amir kissing Jackson, the football player he’s been secretly dating. They give Amir an ultimatum: $1,000 in hush money or they will show his parents the photo. On the brink of emotional collapse, Amir runs away, landing in Rome, where he meets Jahan, a proudly gay Iranian/Dominican man, and his eclectic friends. Amir embraces the newfound freedom to be himself and experience the joys of gay culture and community. But as his family desperately searches for him and relationships with his new friends become complicated, he finds himself missing home and feels the fear of being out ebb away. The story moves back and forth in time between these events and the airport interrogation room where, following a family altercation on the plane home, Amir tells his coming-out story to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. The narrative structure will keep readers riveted as they try to piece together events. Ahmadi’s writing is gripping, taking readers through the myriad emotions a gay Muslim teen experiences growing up in a country whose government is looking for an excuse to demonize Muslims.

A story of coming out and coming-of-age in a post–9/11 world. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-20287-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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