Powerfully written, this is not just a story about trauma, but also one of healing.

THE PAIN EATER

A thoughtful and sensitive handling of a difficult topic.

Six months before starting grade 10, Maddy Malone (a white Canadian 14-year-old) is attacked by a group of boys and raped. Following the ordeal, Maddy has become a shell of herself, trying to avoid her attackers, who thus far have not said anything. Everything changes when Maddy shares an English class with two of her attackers. The uneasy silence they’ve all worked to maintain begins to crumble when the class collectively begins to write The Pain Eater, a fantasy novel about Farang, a 15-year-old girl who at birth was chosen to bear the pain of her fellow villagers. As the students manipulate the story in turn to fit their own ideas and agendas, Maddy begins to see parallels between herself and Farang—and it’s not long before her classmates also begin to catch on. When Maddy’s secret begins to unravel and her attackers threaten her to keep quiet, she must decide whether to fight or stand down. The novel never hits readers over the head with its message, but it is not an easy read. At times heartbreaking, it honestly addresses Maddy’s full range of emotions associated with the rape, from pain to crippling fear and sometimes anger. Through the device of the collectively written story and the teen characters’ responses to it, Goobie sensitively and artfully tackles the problematic way rape is perceived in society.

Powerfully written, this is not just a story about trauma, but also one of healing. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77260-020-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Second Story Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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