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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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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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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