This riff on West Side Story is torrid and heartfelt if not at all subtle, with a sequel featuring Faith’s best friend still...

BEFORE YOU

The daughter of a pastor and a young man on the run from a Cuban drug cartel get past their initial animosity to fall in love in this sexy romance.

Prickly, wary 18-year-old Diego is disgusted with the beautiful and collected young woman assigned to escort him through his first day of school, assuming she is a snob. Faith, also 18, finds Diego, with multiple scars and tattoos, annoyingly cocky yet attractive: “He is a boy with eyes like hope, with scars that tell stories….I don’t trust myself around him.” She has erected a carefully crafted facade to disguise her fear of abandonment and a secret year in rehab, while Diego’s past has left him ready to brutally fight when threatened. The pair tell their story in alternating, present-tense chapters. Their two families are well-drawn; Diego and his relatives speak in English with a sprinkling of Spanish, which contrasts with Faith’s Anglo background. The plot moves slowly for the first two-thirds of the novel, then presents a series of shocks. Hart’s writing in this debut conveys a lot of physical and emotional feeling but works a little too hard in places (“Under my fingertips her blood pulses fast, a one-way train on a track bound for collision”).

This riff on West Side Story is torrid and heartfelt if not at all subtle, with a sequel featuring Faith’s best friend still to come . (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61773-116-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kteen

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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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

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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