A didactic web of family dramas and lessons for living that falls short in nuanced representation.

Sophronia Gayle-St. John, plagued by unexplained mood swings, memory lapses, and clumsiness, struggles through high school as best she can.

Sophie’s class for students with disabilities will be performing the play Abomination, the story of a magical, disfigured child who’s shunned by society, that’s based on an award-winning novel by Mariam Gayle, her literary titan of a grandmother. This prompts Sophie to dig into her family’s past—and she discovers shocking revelations, among them the fact that her parents won damages in a lawsuit over her “wrongful birth.” For 16 years, they’ve carefully hidden her diagnosis of juvenile Huntington’s disease, and Sophie learns she may only have a short time left to live. Now she must decide what to do with this truth. Hughes grapples with enormous questions about bodily autonomy, genetic testing, legal morality, and coping with terminal illness—and only sometimes succeeds. Sophie’s classmates, thrown together despite vastly different access and academic needs, are a collection of broadly drawn disability stereotypes; Sophie herself, while easy to root for in her anger and intense willfulness, is on a trajectory that feels intended more to teach through inspirational clichés than to paint a truly complicated vision of disabled reality. More successful are the explorations of interpersonal conflicts, her high-powered professional parents’ neglect, Mariam’s legacy of abuse, and Sophie’s profound isolation. Sophie’s family is cued white.

A didactic web of family dramas and lessons for living that falls short in nuanced representation. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9781770867093

Page Count: 240

Publisher: DCB

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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