A novel that despite its flaws viscerally evokes struggles of modern teenagers in a brutally authentic manner.

POINTE, CLAW

Two teenage girls fight for their dreams and their sanity in this intense novel about the pressures society places on women to be perfect.

Dawn, a 17-year-old white girl, copes with mysterious fugue states while enrolled in a prestigious online school program that guarantees her a spot in next year’s Stanford freshman class; her former best friend Jessie, also white, dances in an elite Portland, Oregon, ballet school from which only two students will be selected to join the company. Unraveling the mystery behind the girls’ broken friendship is part of the novel's driving force. Keyser uses animal imagery in both protagonists’ alternating narratives to focus attention on the ways that society simultaneously exalts and denigrates women's bodies. The girls’ hypervisibility and physical vulnerability are omnipresent, from the street-level windows through which male passers-by lasciviously watch the ballerinas perform to the impersonal manner in which doctors discuss Dawn’s body in an effort to diagnose her. The narrative is appropriately dark, but the intensity of the physical imagery that juxtaposes human desire for control and animal primitiveness occasionally feels forced rather than the organic product of teenage thought and situations. The short, clipped sentence structure occasionally makes the girls sound too similar despite their differing personalities.

A novel that despite its flaws viscerally evokes struggles of modern teenagers in a brutally authentic manner. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4677-7591-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE WAY I USED TO BE

In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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