A topical and angst-ridden, if unsubtle, novel that pulls no punches.

SNOWFLAKE

A troubled teenager pursues a radical plan to head off climate change in Jeon’s YA thriller.

Eighteen-year-old Ben Wallace remembers everything he’s ever experienced or read. It may seem like a superpower, but in practice, it’s a curse—one that requires him to see a therapist and to cathartically record his thoughts in a journal to cope. These methods aren’t enough, however, as he becomes increasingly unsettled by stories about world events. Wildfires threaten his Los Angeles home, the world’s future is being destroyed by climate inaction, and Ben’s wealthy neighbors—and the U.S. government—just ignore the problem. His classmates at school seem more concerned with selfies and social media than they are with environmental issues. He soon becomes radicalized, particularly after his asthmatic younger sister, June, ends up in the hospital due to air pollution. It isn’t long before an idea takes root in his head and refuses to go away: In order to save the world, he’ll have to kill the man who’s hurting it the most—the climate change–denying president of the United States. He finds a sympathetic ear in John Hale, a former Navy SEAL who now works as Ben’s STEM teacher. Will the educator be able to stop Ben’s drift into extremism? Ben’s character feels believable, and most readers will find his frustrations over the facts of climate change—which he’s incapable of forgetting or ignoring—to be warranted. The book is formatted as if it’s Ben’s personal journal, and as a result, the narration contains more than a bit of hyperbolic teenage petulance: “Above us, the museum, crapped onto a beheaded mountain by a billion dollars, squats behind a burka of smoke.” He rants against “Fakebook” and “Insta-Lie,” pornography, hunting, and other targets—so much so that when he finally takes action—ill-advised as it may be—the reader won’t be able to help but feel a dark sense of relief. It all builds quite compellingly to a conclusion that seems designed to court controversy. For the most part, though, readers will be left with a sense of hopeless exhaustion.

A topical and angst-ridden, if unsubtle, novel that pulls no punches.

Pub Date: May 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73409-350-6

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Global Animal

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2020

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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