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A haunting and honest depiction of adversity and triumph that reveals America’s continuing struggle to give equal...

America’s systemic race and class problems are viscerally rendered in this evocative account of a black teenage girl’s coming-of-age in a novel for reluctant readers.

Shanequa’s life is one of constant heartbreaking struggle. Her father is in jail for second-degree murder, and her mother, depressed by the loss of her husband, succumbs to drugs and abandons her children, leaving Shanequa and her younger sister, LaKecia, to be raised by their grandmother. Yearning for a better life, Shanequa works her way into the prestigious Bidwell Academy for Girls, where she must strive to move forward while dealing with the ghosts from her past. Told in a series of short narrative poems, Shanequa’s struggles, dreams, and fears come alive on the page as she grapples with shame at being poor in a rich world and the indignities of being black and exoticized in a predominantly white educational environment. Taylor (Street Pharmacist, 2016, etc.) nicely employs the story’s framework to turn the protagonist into a shrewdly observational character with a unique voice by giving the readers small glimpses into her thoughts. Descriptions of the two sisters reveal that the darker-skinned Shanequa feels ugly in comparison to her lighter sibling, and casual discussion of various students’ cellphones underscores the class disparities at her school.

A haunting and honest depiction of adversity and triumph that reveals America’s continuing struggle to give equal opportunities to all. (Verse novel. 15-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5383-8248-6

Page Count: 202

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Only marginally intriguing.

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Light and refreshing fare.

The summer after graduation, high school besties in New York City play an epic game.

Cassie Donato and her three best friends have big plans to live it up before setting off on their post–high school lives. But while the London-bound Latine musician Nico, body-positive Asian artist Marcy, and Aaron, who’s Black and headed to Harvard, all seem certain of who they are and where they’re going, Cassie, who reads white, is taking a gap year to work at her family’s diner, and she isn’t so sure what she wants. All she knows is that this is the last chance for their friend group to be together before everything changes. But as the weeks pass, she’s disappointed that the others seem too busy to make the most of this summer. Her solution? A revival of Risky Slips, their favorite childhood game during which players take turns on increasingly risky dares. They have 24 hours to complete them or forfeit. But as the friends compete, the stakes get higher and unspoken tensions rise to the surface, testing their friendships and future. Porretta’s debut is narrated through speech bubbles and color-coded texts, and it captures Generation Z in all their exuberance and acceptance as well as anxiety. Despite a last-minute romantic twist that feels out of step with the work as a whole, the themes of embracing and growing with change prevail. The attractive, jewel-toned art dynamically conveys the urban setting.

Light and refreshing fare. (Graphic fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781665907033

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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