A kindhearted protagonist anchors this sweet and contemporary coming-of-age story.

WHY CAN'T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA?

From the The Pizza Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A teenager navigates a new school and his feelings of being different in this YA novel.

Fourteen-year-old RV (“Short for ‘Arvydas,’ ” he explains. “I’m not a camper or anything”) Aleksandravičius is starting a new chapter: his freshman year at Boston Latin School. But RV has a hard time fitting in with the other kids, and his unique heritage does not help. RV and his parents are “Liths,” or “of Lithuanian Extraction,” and even though they sacrificed a lot to come to the United States, they are still uneasy with the American identity. RV tries not to worry too much about his parents’ increasing fights as he makes friends and learns which bullies to avoid, but he is quite preoccupied by something even bigger. No matter how much he prays to God and throws himself into a flirtatious friendship with a girl named Carole Higginbottom, RV has already admitted to himself that he might be gay. He can’t help but compare himself to the flamboyant Latin teacher Mr. Aniso, and nothing matches the electricity he feels when a handsome jock named Bobby Marshall notices him. RV wishes life could be as easy and enjoyable as eating pizza at his favorite restaurant, Joe’s Pizza, but with the help of his new friends, RV is starting to figure out how to handle the scary and confusing things life throws his way. Roamer molds the entire book to resemble a personal journal, fully fleshing out RV’s voice and insecurities as he experiences first kisses or troubles at home. Overall, RV remains a lovable, relatable narrator. (Although his pedagogical asides explaining words like irony or cretin do feel forced.) The book succeeds most at offering a lighthearted take on intersectionality as RV realizes how his experience as a first-generation American is both similar and different to that of Bobby, an African American, and is a testament to today’s gay youth. Yet even in a progressive school with a gay/straight alliance, homophobia exists and smart kids like RV still feel like outsiders.

A kindhearted protagonist anchors this sweet and contemporary coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: April 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951880-67-5

Page Count: 219

Publisher: NineStar Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

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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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Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE WAY I USED TO BE

In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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