An emotional journey from lost to found, featuring engaging characterization.

In Fehlbaum’s YA novel, a troubled teen is taken in by family members she’s never truly known.

Kylie Jean Briscoe dislikes homework, but her assignment on the first day of her sophomore year in Texarkana is the least of her worries. Kylie’s mother, Matilda, is an abusive drug addict who often treats both the teen girl and her beloved little sister, Aliza, as an afterthought, leaving Kylie to scavenge for food and evade nosy neighbors. After law enforcement finally intervenes, Kylie and Aliza are separated: Aliza goes to Louisiana with her biological father, Travis, and his family, and Kylie is sent to Texas with her maternal grandparents, with whom she lived as a toddler. Kylie’s grandmother LeeAnn, grandfather Oliver, and uncle Joey, a police officer, are eager to bring Kylie into their fold, but the teenager is reluctant to make connections—especially with Aliza so far away. Soon Kylie enters the local high school and finds solace in friendship with her English teacher’s son, Ethan, and the school’s creative writing club. However, an alliance with her mysterious, magnetic classmate Casey could prove dangerous to Kylie and those around her. Fehlbaum, a former English and creative writing teacher, notes in her acknowledgments that she drew some inspiration from her students for this novel. Kylie is a well-developed character whose traumatic experiences have, in part, led her to mistrust those who claim to love her. Kylie’s grandparents are fully fleshed out, too—still smarting from the loss of their daughter to drugs, but happy to welcome their granddaughter into their lives. Watching Kylie progress from sad and angry to healthy and fulfilled is often rewarding. However, some readers may find the novel’s use of Southern vernacular a bit exhausting to parse at times: “That little girl ’n me was like peas ’n carrots when she was a young’un.”

An emotional journey from lost to found, featuring engaging characterization.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781958640296

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2022


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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