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While it doesn’t quite stand on its own, this sequel deftly develops the appealing characters.

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A teenager narrates his confusing emotions in this second installment of a coming-of-age series.

Picking up right where the first volume, Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza? (2014), left off, Roamer continues the story of Arvydas “RV” Aleksandravičius, who has just finished his freshman year at a high school in Boston. RV had been looking forward to spending the summer with his good friends Bobby Marshall and Carole Higginbottom—especially Bobby, as the two shared their burgeoning gay feelings and a first kiss at the close of the preceding novel. Those plans quickly go out the window. Carole gets the opportunity to spend the summer in Paris, and Bobby is being torn between football and arguing about his future with his father. To make matters worse, RV feels that things are off when Bobby does make time for him. RV also discovers that his younger brother, Ray, may be getting in over his head with the wrong crowd. As the teen’s parents stress over their upcoming citizenship exams to become official Americans and the gas station where Bobby works comes under fire from local gangs, it seems the only safe place RV can go is Joe’s, his favorite pizza shop. There, his trustworthy mentor Mr. Aniso is ready with slices and advice. RV maintains the charm and wit that made him a lovable narrator in the first installment. This second chapter expands further into the heavier themes floating beneath the surface of the protagonist’s life, namely, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and the decline of the American dream. (RV’s father’s hesitancy to become a United States citizen and his inability to articulate clearly why he left Lithuania deliver a fresh, intriguing take on contemporary first-generation American life.) But many plot points, such as surprising violence at the gas station and Bobby’s reluctance to come out, never reach a satisfying conclusion. Still, the stage is effectively set for the next volume.

While it doesn’t quite stand on its own, this sequel deftly develops the appealing characters.

Pub Date: May 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64890-021-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Ninestar Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Summery fun and games with feeling.

A summer trip helps break 18-year-old Meredith Fox out of a haze of mourning.

Her cousin’s wedding means a return to Martha’s Vineyard, a well-loved destination but one filled with bittersweet memories. It’s been a year and a half since the sudden loss of Meredith’s sister, Claire, and the grief remains strong. Meredith, though, resolves to take this time to celebrate family and bridge the rifts resulting from ghosting friends. She didn’t plan on a meet-cute/embarrassing encounter with the groom’s stepbrother, Wit. Nor did she expect a wedding-week game of Assassin, a water-gun–fueled family tradition. What starts off as a pact of sharing strategic information with Wit grows into something more as the flirting and feelings develop. Only one person can win, though, and any alliance has an expiration date. To win and honor Claire, who was a master of the game, Meredith must keep her eye on the prize. Taking place over the course of a week, the narrative is tight with well-paced reveals that disrupt predictability and keep the plot moving. Early details are picked back up, and many elements come satisfyingly full circle. The short time frame also heightens the tension of this summer romance: What will happen when they leave the bubble of the Vineyard? The mix of budding romance, competitive hijinks, a close-knit circle, as well as dealing with loss make for a satisfying read. The main cast is White.

Summery fun and games with feeling. (family tree) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-029-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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