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An affecting tale that shows how people and animals can change each other’s lives.

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The lives of a downtrodden teenage girl and a shepherd dog intersect in Scotti’s debut YA novella.

Candace “Candy” Scott lives in Southern California with her father. She should be a sophomore in high school, but she hasn’t had the will to attend class since her mother died. Her father does odd jobs to pay the bills, including collecting stray dogs for Clement, a liquor store owner and dogfighting enthusiast. One day, her dad brings home a “big shaggy shepherd with biscuit-colored fur” and keeps him in their building’s basement. Candy also starts noticing Carlos, an older teen who lives in the building with his uncle, Rafael Gomez, and his family. Carlos helps Candy briefly care for the dog until Clement comes to pick him up. Then they witness Clement kicking the animal and saying, “you gotta be tougher than that, little man.” The dog’s name is Bear, and he’s had a horrible life ever since he failed to keep his boy companion, Jared, from running into a street, which led to tragedy. Bear has since suffered beatings, the loneliness of a kill shelter, and life on the streets. As Candy and Carlos bond, her father’s alcoholism threatens the security of her home. Bear, meanwhile, makes a fragile connection to JuJuBee, a Chihuahua. Scotti’s portraits of resilience, though harrowing, reveal much overlap in the emotional lives of humans and animals. When readers meet Bear in the first of his many first-person chapters, he says, “I am not a bad dog, but I did a bad thing,” echoing Candy’s attitude toward dropping out of school. She and Carlos are a charming couple; for instance, she claims not to like her nickname, saying, “I’m not that sweet,” and he replies by calling her “Lemon.” Clement comes off as menacing from his very first scene, when he tries to brush Candy’s hair off of her face without her permission. Various scenes of brutality involving Bear in a dogfighting ring are effective without being excessively graphic. Scotti maintains a sense of realism by avoiding easy or saccharine solutions but still offers hope.

An affecting tale that shows how people and animals can change each other’s lives.

Pub Date: March 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68003-196-6

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Texas Review Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An emotional debut that celebrates the joy that comes from healing.

Two teens’ summer romance gets complicated by a long-kept family secret.

Jupiter Moon Ray Evans’ parents were in a car accident the day she was born—her father died, and her mom suddenly became both a widow and a mother. Ray is named after the dad she never knew, and his absence is a tangible part of her family. She hates that her birthday can never just be about her, but this year her best friend from boarding school is coming to Memphis, and they are celebrating at the roller rink, the one place Ray can get lost in her own world. While skating she meets Orion, and for both of them, it is love at first sight. Orion is also missing a piece of his family: Almost 10 years ago his little sister was hit and killed by a bus, and his happy family was destroyed. Orion finds a feeling of peace in swimming, which helps with his sensory processing disorder as well as providing an escape from his dad’s grief. Although the two Black teens will be in different states in the fall, they tentatively pursue a relationship. However, when a family secret that links them is revealed, they must decide if they can ever be anything to one another. Through a blend of prose and found poetry, this quiet novel thoughtfully explores the impact of absence on love.

An emotional debut that celebrates the joy that comes from healing. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-42925-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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