A wonderfully atmospheric debut.



In Boochever’s debut middle-grade novel, a reluctant young girl coping with her parents’ breakup becomes part of the fishing community at Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

After her parents’ divorce, 13-year-old Zoey Morley left her home in Colorado to follow her mother and little brother to Anchorage, Alaska. Now, a year later, she still hasn’t heard from her father and must leave the city (and her best friend) to spend the summer at Bristol Bay, so that her mother’s boyfriend can make money transporting salmon in a rickety old Cessna plane. Despite Zoey’s anger at being uprooted again, and her unwillingness to accept Patrick as part of her family, she gradually begins to appreciate the rugged beauty of Bristol Bay and the hardworking people who earn their living fishing there. She starts to settle in when she meets Thomas Gamble, a native boy who lost his father in a tragic fishing accident. The Gambles give Zoey a job with Thomas, running setnets to catch salmon, and she hatches a plan to save enough money to fly to Colorado and find her father. However, after a horrific accident, she must reevaluate her relationship with Patrick and what it really means to be a family. Boochever suffuses her tale with the kind of vivid details only a longtime Alaskan could know, from her descriptions of the majestic landscape to the finer points of commercial salmon fishing. She has a gift for drawing readers in, and a penchant for bringing the details of character’s experiences to life, as in this description of Zoey cleaning up after her first fishing experience: “The bulky clothing felt even heavier and definitely stinkier as Zoey shrugged herself out of the grimy rubber pants and let them fall on the ground near the door.” At the same time, the book delivers scenes of action and suspense in a wholly realistic, organic way.

A wonderfully atmospheric debut.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0882409948

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

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A resounding success.


This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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