Still absorbing, if not as polished as its predecessor.

ASTRAY

From the Gated series , Vol. 2

This sequel to the excellent Gated (2013) follows former cult member Lyla as she struggles to adjust to the outside world while fighting off the calls of her family to rejoin their doomsday sect led by charismatic and dictatorial Pioneer.

In the first book, Lyla struggled to escape the Community; now, she deals with her emotions: toward her parents, who remain enthusiastically in the cult, toward former Intended Will, and toward Cody, the sheriff’s son with whom she is starting a possible romance and with whose family she now lives. Additionally, some residents of the small town make it clear they want Lyla out. The town government decides to send all the cult children to the same high school, lumping Lyla in with them, thus causing Lyla even more grief as she attempts to distance herself from them. Pioneer, operating from jail rather like Charles Manson, manages to maintain ultimate control over the Community, with flunky Mr. Brown leading increasingly violent attempts to intimidate Lyla. Parker resorts to a couple of rather unrealistic contrivances to set up the suspense in this book: It’s hard to believe that officials would throw Lyla together with her former cult members and send the cult children back to their still-obsessed families. Nevertheless, Lyla’s psychological turmoil comes across effectively, and the suspense builds to an extremely exciting climax.

Still absorbing, if not as polished as its predecessor. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-449-81602-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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