Superior scaffolding, didactic execution.

FALLING INTO PLACE

A teen tries to commit suicide by crashing her car in this debut from an adolescent author.

High school junior Liz Emerson hovers between life and death in the hospital after purposefully running her car off the road, while friends, teachers and curious classmates gather to stand watch and hope for the best. Strategically timed flashbacks to weeks, days and minutes before the crash, some voiced by Liz’s platitude-spouting childhood imaginary friend, reveal a wealthy, popular girl tortured by regret over her cruel actions against others. Her father died when she was young, and her widowed mother ignores Liz in favor of her globe-trotting job, but Liz knows that’s no excuse for getting a friend hooked on drugs, urging another friend to have an abortion and making a mean viral video of a boy who has a crush on her. “Some nights, Liz looked back and counted the bodies, all the lives she had ruined simply by existing. So she chose to stop existing.” Will Liz pull through? Depending on whether they identify with Liz or her victims, readers may be split about the novel’s abrupt ending. Even though the text is peppered with clichés, the inventive structure and inspired use of the imaginary-friend narrator help overcome the earnest, immature prose and heavy-handed messages.

Superior scaffolding, didactic execution. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-229504-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A dynamic story of grief, loyalty, and, finally, some cheerworthy victories.

GIRLS LIKE ME

With her father dead, her friends being yanked away, and fatphobia battering her, a teen finds affection and strength with a boy she meets online.

Fifteen-year-old Shay lost Dad a year ago, and she’s not close to her stepmother, who seems only to wish that Shay were thinner. At school, nemesis Kelly leaves oinking stuffed pigs on her chair and changes Shay’s cell ringtone to pig sounds. Best friends Dash and Boots are being stolen: Boots by brain cancer, which is killing her, and Dash by his father, who sends him to military school for being gay. Shay connects with a boy online (screen name “Godotwait4me”)—until their growing closeness infuriates Kelly so much she launches a website she calls Get the Pig Back in Its Pen, dedicated to breaking them up. StVil’s verse prose is inventive and alive, sometimes cryptic, sometimes lurching, sometimes stunning; it rhymes only rarely yet with the effect of a gut punch (“Car. Speed. Head. / Docs. Tried. Dad. Dead”). Food-based figures of speech are gorgeous; unfortunately, they underscore the stereotype of Shay as a fat comfort-eater, but refreshingly, the plot has no weight-loss arc. Shay and Godot’s text threads hum with mutual attraction, high wit, and each one’s self-defeating fragilities. Shay’s race is undesignated, although she looks white on the cover.

A dynamic story of grief, loyalty, and, finally, some cheerworthy victories. (Verse fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-70674-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the...

THE MOST DANGEROUS THING

An eleventh-grade girl wants to start a relationship but is stymied by depression and anxiety.

Syd knows her depression isn’t really out of control, like some people’s. She can usually manage the crushing fog that weighs her down: tricking herself into getting out of bed by playing the phone game; biking around Vancouver, British Columbia, until she’s exhausted; investing online with her cantankerous grandfather; eating just enough to get by. It works well enough until her lab partner, Paul, starts texting and flirting. Syd would respond in kind if she could, but she’s afraid to make eye contact or have conversations with new people—how could she possibly start a relationship? Fading into the background would be ideal, but her gregarious family has other plans. Her mother, revitalizing the family Passover celebration, ropes Syd into embarrassing Jewish singalongs. Worse, Syd’s vivacious sister wants to perform The Vagina Monologues for the school drama festival, and she’s written her own monologue—one that uses “the c-word”! The oozing darkness that dominates Syd’s thoughts is authentically represented in her present-tense narration and appropriately addressed with professional mental health treatment. Frustratingly, however, Syd’s nervousness about romantic and sexual intimacy is pathologized as a curable symptom of her mental illness.

An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the flavor for a tale of recovery and empowerment . (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1184-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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