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


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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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.


From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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