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ON THE COME UP

A joyous experience awaits. Read it. Learn it. Love it.

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This honest and unflinching story of toil, tears, and triumph is a musical love letter that proves literary lightning does indeed strike twice.

Thomas’ (The Hate U Give, 2017) sophomore novel returns to Garden Heights, but while Brianna may live in Starr's old neighborhood, their experiences couldn't differ more. Raised by a widowed mother, a recovering drug addict, Bri attends an arts school while dreaming of becoming a famous rapper, as her father was before gang violence ended his life. Her struggles within the music industry and in school highlight the humiliations and injustices that remain an indelible part of the African American story while also showcasing rap’s undeniable lyrical power as a language through which to find strength. Bri's journey is deeply personal: small in scope and edgy in tone. When Bri raps, the prose sings on the page as she uses it to voice her frustration at being stigmatized as “hood” at school, her humiliation at being unable to pay the bills, and her yearning to succeed in the music world on her own merit. Most importantly, the novel gives voice to teens whose lives diverge from middle-class Americana. Bri wrestles with parent relationships and boy drama—and a trip to the food bank so they don’t starve during Christmas. The rawness of Bri's narrative demonstrates Thomas’ undeniable storytelling prowess as she tells truths that are neither pretty nor necessarily universally relatable.

A joyous experience awaits. Read it. Learn it. Love it. (Fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-249856-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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