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



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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Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst.


When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration.

When the Tap-Out hits and the state’s entire water supply runs dry, 16-year-old Alyssa Morrow and her little brother, Garrett, ration their Gatorade and try to be optimistic. That is, until their parents disappear, leaving them completely alone. Their neighbor Kelton McCracken was born into a survivalist family, but what use is that when it’s his family he has to survive? Kelton is determined to help Alyssa and Garrett, but with desperation comes danger, and he must lead them and two volatile new acquaintances on a perilous trek to safety and water. Occasionally interrupted by “snapshots” of perspectives outside the main plot, the narrative’s intensity steadily rises as self-interest turns deadly and friends turn on each other. No one does doom like Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead, 2018, etc.)—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away. He and his debut novelist son have crafted a world of dark thirst and fiery desperation, which, despite the tendrils of hope that thread through the conclusion, feels alarmingly near to our future. There is an absence of racial markers, leaving characters’ identities open.

Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8196-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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