Careful, subtle and aching.

LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES

A system for avoiding heartbreak falls apart in an unexpectedly insightful tale of friendship and loyalty.

Aubrey’s friends spend their weekends making out with boys at parties, drinking Slurpees mixed with vodka, and hurling insults at their ex-friend, Chiffon. Now that Aubrey has gotten into her dream school and eased off her work schedule, she can join them. Just before the start of their junior year, Shelby, the de facto group leader, developed the titular theories. High school boys, according to the theories, are incapable of commitment, so girls should enjoy sex and never expect anything afterward. But when good-looking outsider Nathan Diggs shows up in Aubrey’s drama class, and Nathan and Aubrey quickly become inseparable, Aubrey is tempted to forget that she’s become “evolved.” What looks poised to be a romantic comedy (girl meets boy; theories fail; love triumphs) turns into something far more complex and bittersweet. Each character’s life is carefully imagined, from Chiffon, the target of the girls’ ridicule, to Shelby herself, whose carefree armor slowly begins to crack. The bullying is never forgiven. The lovers, once estranged, are never entirely reunited. The theories are indeed debunked, but what is left in their place is a kind of vulnerability and regret that can’t be summed up in a romantic platitude.

Careful, subtle and aching. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-227532-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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