Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation.


From the West 44 YA Verse series

Tragedy turns a top basketball prospect toward a life of hard, hurt-filled choices—but it’s never too late to become more than our pain.

When her loving ex-con father is assassinated, Aaliyah Davis’ already tumultuous life in Buffalo, New York, is turned upside down. A star hooper, like her father before her, and an unrepentant tomboy, to the chagrin of her absentee mother, 16-year-old Aaliyah experiences the sort of trauma no one should have to but that is unfortunately all too common. Her story is presented here in raw, poignant verse with first-person adolescent lyricism. With basketball no longer an effective distraction from her growing anger, a budding relationship with a schoolmate who’s suffered similarly from gun violence quickly turns into an opportunity for revenge. Until a stint in juvenile detention that pointedly parallels her father’s incarceration, learning to trust the right people proves to be disastrously difficult for Aaliyah and many of the young people in this complicated story of loss, betrayal, and widespread neglect—but it’s a hard-earned lesson that ultimately sets her free. Accessible for reluctant readers, the attractive design and fluid writing style make this a broadly appealing work. Main characters are Black.

Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation. (Verse novel. 12-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9785-9559-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A provocative shot but far from a slam-dunk.


After a promising young talent is shot dead on a neighborhood basketball court, the game takes on new meaning for a community in mourning.

Middle schooler Tony “Tone” Washington lost a close friend when a police officer opened fire on honor student Dante Jones, cutting the nationally ranked basketball player’s life short. The working-class Milwaukee neighborhood Tone and his family live in is no stranger to injustice, so in the aftermath, a rally, protest, and candlelight vigil are organized in tragically routine fashion. All the while, Tone’s focus is on making an elite local AAU basketball team, partially in commemoration of his late friend but also because—despite recognizing some of the disconcerting aspects of so much of your future being determined as a young teen—the sport takes up a significant space in the lives and dreams of the boys in his neighborhood. But the overlap of hoop dreams and police brutality ultimately makes for some uncomfortable and uneven narrative beats. As Tone narrates his interactions with Dante’s younger brother, Terry, the latter boy is obviously and justifiably angry and hurt because of his very personal loss, making Tone’s dogged focus on basketball strike a hollow note. Despite some compelling reflections on community and emotional health, sports clichés abound on the way to the national championship, and the impact of Dante’s death only three months earlier is not fully explored. Most characters are assumed Black.

A provocative shot but far from a slam-dunk. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-306959-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre.


Survival camp? How can you not have bad feelings about that?

Sixteen-year-old nerd (or geek, but not dork) Henry Lambert has no desire to go to Strongwoods Survival Camp. His father thinks it might help Henry man up and free him of some of his odd phobias. Randy, Henry’s best friend since kindergarten, is excited at the prospect of going thanks to the camp’s promotional YouTube video, so Henry relents. When they arrive at the shabby camp in the middle of nowhere and meet the possibly insane counselor (and only staff member), Max, Henry’s bad feelings multiply. Max tries to train his five campers with a combination of carrot and stick, but the boys are not athletes, let alone survivalists. When a trio of gangsters drops in on the camp Games to try to collect the debt owed by the owner, the boys suddenly have to put their skills to the test. Too bad they don’t have any—at all. Strand’s summer-camp farce is peopled with sarcastic losers who’re chatty and wry. It’s often funny, and the gags turn in unexpected directions and would do Saturday Night Live skits proud. However, the story’s flow is hampered by an unnecessary and completely unfunny frame that takes place during the premier of the movie the boys make of their experience. The repeated intrusions bring the narrative to a screeching halt.

Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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