A sweet story with a focus on family and friendships.

BY THE BOOK

Bookish 15-year-old Mary Porter-Malcolm comes into her own in this lighthearted tale.

Both her parents are professors, so it’s no surprise that Mary spends most of her time immersed in 19th-century literature. After her small alternative school closes, Mary’s forced to transfer to public school at the beginning of her sophomore year—where she is left all alone after her old friend Anjuli promptly ditches her. Overhearing three popular girls’ conversation about Alex Ritter, a handsome senior boy she’s familiar with from a theater production, Mary warns them of his dangerous charms. They welcome her advice and in exchange offer to help her embark upon a genuine high school experience (or, as Mary thinks of it, her debutante season). They try to set her up with various guys, all clearly wrong for her; meanwhile, Alex keeps popping up to banter with her. Mary’s diary entries pepper the narrative and provide some tongue-in-cheek humor. Debut author Sellet delightfully portrays Mary’s large, chaotic family—her twin sisters’ Shakespeare troupe; her stoic, athletic sister; and her annoying younger brother. Occasionally clunky writing and Mary’s habit of constantly cramming in references to classic literature—from Wuthering Heights to Anna Karenina—may alienate contemporary bookworms. Mary and Alex are white, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast.

A sweet story with a focus on family and friendships. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-15661-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 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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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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