A poignant, humanizing exploration of a sadly timely issue.


After her brother is injured in a gun accident, a teen—and her town—grapples with the aftermath in Culley’s debut.

Fifteen-year-old Liv’s older brother, Jonah, had always been a daredevil—until he accidentally shot himself with a gun belonging to his best friend Clay’s dad. Now, severely brain damaged, he requires expensive round-the-clock care. Despite Jonah’s largely passive state, Liv accords him as much agency as possible, helping him to “have his say.” As the trial to determine who’s responsible approaches, residents of former mill town Maddigan, Maine, vehemently defend their right to own guns. But firearm debates are only the surface of this character-driven drama. Introspective and inquisitive Liv’s free-verse narration vividly explores the rift between her family and Clay’s; memories of her late father; and the difficulty of surviving in her economically depressed small town. Above all, her spare, blunt lines convey her love for Jonah; her exhaustion and loneliness as her friends and overworked, overwhelmed mother grow distant; and the nuances of guilt and forgiveness. Liv’s struggle with the “little animal / inside” her that yearns for attention even as she acknowledges that Jonah “needs everything” is piercingly realistic. Fortunately, kind—if somewhat one-dimensional—secondary characters offer support, and Liv and Clay’s gradual romance is touching. The ending offers bittersweet but satisfying closure. Most characters appear white; one of Liv’s friends is Indian American.

A poignant, humanizing exploration of a sadly timely issue. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-290802-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 37

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller


After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?