This engrossing installment moves a series about a gay teen in a promising, mature direction.

WHY CAN’T SOPHOMORE SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA?

This fourth volume of a YA series chronicles a sweet, queer teen coming-of-age in Boston.

As Roamer’s story begins, his narrator and protagonist, RV, finds himself starting a summer that already feels different and slightly off from previous ones. It seems as if all the people in the high school student’s life are facing major problems that affect their moods. (Even Joe from Joe’s Pizza does not seem his usual cheery self.) Following the football accident at the end of Why Can’t Relationships Be Like Pizza? (2021), RV’s best friend—and crush—Bobby is struggling to recover from the physical and cognitive effects of his head injury with such tenacity that he is actually scaring the protagonist. At the same time, both RV’s friend Mark and his mentor and confidant, Mr. Aniso, are also preoccupied by upsetting events in their families. It feels as if there’s not much fun to be had as RV begins a summer job at the multiplex. But the new gig introduces him to the gregarious and flirtatious Italian American Matteo. RV soon embarks on his first “official” dates with a boy and realizes he has to figure out what that means for his other friendships, his family, and his future—all while trying to learn to drive. Some of the more adult themes, like homophobia, sex, and identity, which were largely on the periphery in the previous volumes, have started to directly affect RV, making for a much more engaging narrative. (Bobby’s difficulty coping with his new disabilities is the most complex and realistic subplot yet.) Roamer’s teenagers still come off as too formal and polite with one another to be believable at times. But just like its main character, the series has shown real progress and moved toward a more serious look at the lives of today’s queer young people.

This engrossing installment moves a series about a gay teen in a promising, mature direction.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64890-346-5

Page Count: 247

Publisher: NineStar Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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