A story of coming out and coming-of-age in a post–9/11 world.

HOW IT ALL BLEW UP

As an Iranian American Muslim teen, Amir Azadi has long pondered what it would be like to come out to his parents.

In fact, he keeps a mental tally of all the positive and negative comments his parents make about gay people. But everything comes crashing down when school bullies photograph Amir kissing Jackson, the football player he’s been secretly dating. They give Amir an ultimatum: $1,000 in hush money or they will show his parents the photo. On the brink of emotional collapse, Amir runs away, landing in Rome, where he meets Jahan, a proudly gay Iranian/Dominican man, and his eclectic friends. Amir embraces the newfound freedom to be himself and experience the joys of gay culture and community. But as his family desperately searches for him and relationships with his new friends become complicated, he finds himself missing home and feels the fear of being out ebb away. The story moves back and forth in time between these events and the airport interrogation room where, following a family altercation on the plane home, Amir tells his coming-out story to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. The narrative structure will keep readers riveted as they try to piece together events. Ahmadi’s writing is gripping, taking readers through the myriad emotions a gay Muslim teen experiences growing up in a country whose government is looking for an excuse to demonize Muslims.

A story of coming out and coming-of-age in a post–9/11 world. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-20287-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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