Best leave it at maybe so.

Two 17-year-olds from the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, work together on a campaign for a progressive state senate candidate in an unlikely love story.

Co-authors Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat, 2018, etc.) and Saeed (Bilal Cooks Daal, 2019, etc.) present Jamie Goldberg, a white Ashkenazi Jewish boy who suffers from being “painfully bad at anything girl-related,” and Maya Rehman, a Pakistani American Muslim girl struggling with her parents’ sudden separation. Former childhood best friends, they find themselves volunteered as a team by their mothers during a Ramadan “campaign iftar.” One canvassing adventure at a time, they grow closer despite Maya’s no-dating policy. Chapters alternate between Maya’s and Jamie’s first-person voices. The endearing, if somewhat clichéd, teens sweetly connect over similarities like divorced parents, and their activism will resonate with many. Jamie is sensitive, clumsy, and insecure; Maya is determined, sassy, a dash spoiled, and she swears freely. The novel covers timeless themes of teen activism and love-conquers-all along with election highs and lows, messy divorces, teen angst, bat mitzvah stress, social media gaffes, right-wing haters, friendship drama, and cultural misunderstandings, but the explicit advocacy at times interferes with an immersive reading experience and the text often feels repetitious. Maya’s mother is hijabi, and while Maya advocates against a hijab ban, she chooses not to wear hijab and actively wrestles with what it means to be an observant Muslim.

Best leave it at maybe so. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293704-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019


Gory horror that thinks nihilist incoherence is the same thing as edgy. It's wrong

A court-mandated hike becomes zombie flick, laden with 1980s pop-culture references.

Seventeen-year-old Nick's life could be better. Since his worthless father, the Dude, "Has Other Concerns" than buying groceries, Nick works at the chicken factory to earn food and medicine for his oddball baby sister. An accident at the factory leaves Nick jailed for...well, it's not clear what he's jailed for. Living in an unjust world, perhaps? Nick’s troupe of realistically foulmouthed delinquents are soon fighting off chicken-gnawing, entrails-chomping zombies at the top of a mountain, calling one another “fag” every step of the way. In prose that consists of far too many one-sentence and even one-word paragraphs ("Had to see. / If it was. /  Skoal. / Another step"), Nick has masturbatory fantasies about the hottest girl zombie, even while mooning over the object of his affections, Petal Gazes, a manic pixie punk-rock girl with anime eyes and a "Bauhaus" hoodie. Like Pete Hautman’s Rash (2006), this over-the-top boys'-prison-camp adventure resembles a grown-up Holes (1998), but lacks the heart and ultimate optimism of either. The sexed-up face-eating may please dedicated fans of the shambling undead, despite self-aware sarcasm that explicitly mocks the commercialism of current zombie fandom.

Gory horror that thinks nihilist incoherence is the same thing as edgy. It's wrong . (Horror. 15-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5947-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012


This sophomoric sophomore effort reads like a rough draft for a screenplay…which it may well be.

High school senior Carson Phillips will get into Northwestern and be the youngest freelance journalist published in all the major outlets, and he’s not above blackmail to get there.

Although he’s single-handedly kept the Clover High Chronicle in print and the Writing Club functioning (by teaching the journalism class, one of many credulity-stretching details) for years, Carson is worried that he won’t get into his dream school. The acceptance letter will be his ticket out of the backward town of Clover which, like high school, is peopled by Carson’s intellectual inferiors. When his counselor suggests he edit and submit a literary magazine with his application, Carson and his dim, plagiaristic sidekick Malerie hatch a scheme to blackmail a chunk of the student body into submitting work. Colfer’s joyless and amateurish satire is little more than a series of scenes that seem to be created as vehicles for lame and often clichéd one-liners. Once Carson’s bullied his classmates (stereotypes one and all) into writing for him, he develops a soul and dispenses Dr. Phil–worthy advice to his victims—and he’s confused when they don’t thank him. Carson is so unlikable, so groundlessly conceited that when lightning literally does strike, readers who’ve made it that far may well applaud.

This sophomoric sophomore effort reads like a rough draft for a screenplay…which it may well be. (Fiction. 15-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-23295-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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