SOPHOMORE UNDERCOVER

Fourteen-year-old Stilton High sophomore Dixie Nguyen is the only student who works on the school paper. He’s sure he’s found the scoop of a lifetime when he catches a member of the football team shooting up in the locker room, but it’s Dixie who gets busted for possession after a disastrous run-in with a school security guard. Dixie spends his week of in-school suspension investigating to clear his name with the help of a new friend, Goth-girl Brynn. From a cringe-inducingly creepy relationship with the newspaper’s faculty adviser to a whiskey-soaked undercover visit to a bar to his nude accusations at the Homecoming dance, Dixie stumbles his way through the most downright pathetic investigation imaginable. If any of this sounds as if it might induce a laugh of any kind other than uncomfortable, it won’t. Esch’s debut is a string of embarrassingly unfunny one-liners (most of which rely on penises for their effect) larding a nonsensical plot that features a hopelessly clueless straight-A, ethnic-for-no-reason (other than to have a “funny” name) narrator surrounded by caricatures. Trying for snarky and sarcastic, this barely achieves lame; no teen will thank you for including this in your collection. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4231-1303-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2008

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT

Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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