An insightful, original take on the coming-of-age story, this novel plumbs the depths of American culture to arrive at a...

AMERICAN GIRLS

A bright, prickly teenager struggles to find her place while spending a summer exploring the contradictions of Hollywood, replete with beautiful actors, has-been pop stars, and the specter of the Manson girls.

Umminger's debut novel follows 15-year-old Anna, a smart, cynical white girl who escapes a complicated home situation by "borrowing" her stepmother's credit card to run away to Los Angeles. There, she reunites with her actress sister for the summer and is recruited by her sister's dubious director (and ex-boyfriend) to research the Manson girls for his film project. The more time Anna spends tagging along on TV and film sets, the more she begins to notice the surprising ways in which the subtle yet pervasive emotional violence in her own life and the lives of those around her mirror the personal histories of the Manson girls, who were, after all, once "regular" girls. Setting her tale against the glittery, gritty backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, the author deftly weaves together multiple story strands to create a razor-sharp commentary on our culture, observed with keen wit from the perspective of one honest and complex American girl.

An insightful, original take on the coming-of-age story, this novel plumbs the depths of American culture to arrive at a poignant emotional truth. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07500-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 28

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more