A timely novel about empowered teens.

THE F WORDS

A boy, infuriated with injustices in his world and community, learns how to fight back.

Cole Renner is a White sophomore at August Mersy High School in Chicago. His principal has labeled him a troublemaker for daring to take action against injustices—just like his father, who is currently a prisoner in Cook County Jail after leading a protest to save a neighborhood public school. Struggling with his father’s recent sentencing, Cole lashes out and spray-paints the F-word multiple times on school property. Caught by Mr. Nachman, his English teacher, he is offered a choice: face suspension or clean it off and write two poems every week about other words starting with F. Choosing the latter option, Cole writes about the injustices that surround him and his schoolmates, who are of diverse cultural backgrounds. Despite his initial reluctance, he finds solace in poetry, and it becomes an outlet for each new wrong that Cole and those he cares about face. The teen characters’ discussions of issues such as deportation and racism may inspire young readers who are fed up with witnessing inequities, though this first-person novel tackles many concepts in its five-month timeline, causing events to be rushed and detracting from some of their impact. However, the author admirably showcases the power young people hold when they come together and speak out against a biased system.

A timely novel about empowered teens. (discussion guide) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952536-26-7

Page Count: 365

Publisher: Cross Your Heart

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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