A compelling debut for teens from adult novelist Portes (Hick, 2007, etc.).

ANATOMY OF A MISFIT

Anika Dragomir, the third most popular girl at her high school in 1980s Nebraska, is pursued by two different boys, both off-limits to her, in a romance filled with seriously funny dark humor and tragedy.

When, toward the end of this unconventional novel, Anika realizes that she may have inherited her tendency toward mental imbalance from her loving and smart but eccentric mother, it’s an epiphany for her. It might not be similarly revelatory for readers, given the first-person window they’ve been given into her thoughts throughout. Nevertheless, Anika will already have won most of them over, even in the face of some questionable moral lapses, such as dosing her (albeit obnoxious and, it turns out, racist) boss’s coffee with Valium and pilfering money from the register. She worries that, inside, she’s “spider soup,” but it’s clear that Anika’s a good soul, though she’s terrified of her supposed friend, the most popular girl in school. This fear is the reason that she stays quiet about her developing relationships with both reformed outcast Logan, who deals with a paralyzing, sad home life, and the wildly charismatic but possible player Jared. Chapters interspersed that describe Anika pedaling furiously on her bike toward a clearly horrific outcome will brace readers from the start, but this foreshadowing does little to soften the emotional punch of the conclusion.

A compelling debut for teens from adult novelist Portes (Hick, 2007, etc.). (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-231364-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status.

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FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

Testing the strength of family bonds is never easy—and lies make it even harder.

Daunis is trying to balance her two communities: The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, teen is constantly adapting, whether she is with her Anishinaabe father’s side of the family, the Firekeepers, or the Fontaines, her White mother’s wealthy relatives. She has grand plans for her future, as she wants to become a doctor, but has decided to defer her plans to go away for college because her maternal grandmother is recovering from a stroke. Daunis spends her free time playing hockey with her Firekeeper half brother, Levi, but tragedy strikes, and she discovers someone is selling a dangerous new form of meth—and the bodies are piling up. While trying to figure out who is behind this, Daunis pulls away from her family, covering up where she has been and what she has been doing. While dealing with tough topics like rape, drugs, racism, and death, this book balances the darkness with Ojibwe cultural texture and well-crafted characters. Daunis is a three-dimensional, realistically imperfect girl trying her best to handle everything happening around her. The first-person narration reveals her internal monologue, allowing readers to learn what’s going on in her head as she encounters anti-Indian bias and deals with grief.

A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76656-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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