A lightweight for reluctant readers, a heavyweight for those facing body dysmorphia.

MANNING UP

A small-town football hero grapples with body dysmorphia through verse.

Jack is the heralded high school running back in Comfort, Texas. He’s a lauded athlete, but he’s laden with sorrow and the gripping fear of letting his family—including the spirit of his dead father—down (his widowed mother works endlessly to support Jack and his sister). Jack’s outward sheen doesn’t translate to a gilded self-perception. Struggling with body dysmorphia, he starves himself and eventually begins a regimen of steroids. When he collapses on the field, he’s forced to face himself through therapy and rehab. The football-as-religion trope gets a sensitivity chip here. The title and dedication imply a heavy hand of enforced masculinity from antagonists, but this pressure to “man up” is Jack’s own and doesn’t surface as a problematic, townwide toxicity. In fact, the coach’s concern for Jack is obvious, and the love story between Jack and his female suitor is subtle and sweet. As Jack evolves, so too does his storytelling. The black-and-white admissions become richer metaphors (“This time, / my hot truck seats / mean something new / is about to begin”)—a subtle but lovely way to underscore his psychological healing. It’s a simple-not-simplistic book ideal for reluctant readers. Characters are presumed white.

A lightweight for reluctant readers, a heavyweight for those facing body dysmorphia. (Verse novel. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5383-8268-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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