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Resonantly reflects the necessities of community and friendship in a time of social distance and division.

Authentic voices of a generation navigating young adulthood, existing through the Covid-19 pandemic while experiencing the loss of a loved one to the carceral state.

This rich tapestry of student creativity—poems, letters, photographs, and paintings stitched together and informed by colorful and diverse emotions—comprises the latest anthology from POPS the Club, a national nonprofit working with young people who have an incarcerated loved one. While the works included were created by students who share a common bond, the collection readily connects them with readers who have not lived through the same experiences. Divided into thematic sections united by a collective sense of community—“Our Hoods,” “Our Humility,” “Our Homies,” “Our Homes,” “Our Honesty,” and so on—the anthology presents experiences and emotions that bind people together, reflecting our universality rather than our differences. Some pieces, such as the poems “Atrapasuenos Entrelazados Dalias y Amapolas de California” by Donaji Garcia and “Pain(t)” by Nick Griffin and the six-word memoir “I grieve, I celebrate each year” by Lucy Rodriguez, shine with glimpses of literary greatness through the use of metaphor, adianoeta, and sensory language. The collection marches steadily toward hope, ending in a photograph of a purple petunia by Kennedy King, leaving readers inspired.

Resonantly reflects the necessities of community and friendship in a time of social distance and division. (Anthology. 12-17)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-952197-12-3

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Out of the Woods Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A smart, timely outing.

Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).

Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class.

A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233571-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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