This briefest of novels might have been more satisfying as a robust short story.

READ REVIEW

A 52-HERTZ WHALE

An open-ended meditation on loneliness and connection, told in crisscrossing email threads.

Whale-obsessed ninth-grader James sends a hopeful email to Darren, the classroom volunteer he remembers from his eighth-grade social-skills class. Darren, a broken-hearted would-be documentarian making a pittance as a production assistant on a junky sitcom, writes back. Deeply concerned about the welfare of a particular whale, Salt, James also starts writing to Peter, a cetologist tracking humpback whales at the Greater New England Whale Conservancy. Peter, worried about his long-lost sister’s well-being, does his best to help. Everyone—unbeknown to everyone else—is reaching out for an authentic connection. It’s a worthy, sincere theme, and co-authors Sommer and Tilghman pull off a number of genuinely affecting and funny moments, but these are not enough to overcome the thinness of the narrative and structural conceits. Too many of the email exchanges are overburdened with exposition that doesn’t make sense in context, and other conversations just don’t feel genuine. Readers will root for James, but his characterization relies heavily on clichés about people on the autistic spectrum, while the handling of Darren's post-breakup stalking of his ex-girlfriend is entirely too breezy.  The huge number of narrative threads—many left untied—reflect the ongoing-ness of real life, but readers are left feeling like they just viewed a PG-mashup of Garden State and Crash.

This briefest of novels might have been more satisfying as a robust short story. (Epistolary novel. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-7917-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the...

THE MOST DANGEROUS THING

An eleventh-grade girl wants to start a relationship but is stymied by depression and anxiety.

Syd knows her depression isn’t really out of control, like some people’s. She can usually manage the crushing fog that weighs her down: tricking herself into getting out of bed by playing the phone game; biking around Vancouver, British Columbia, until she’s exhausted; investing online with her cantankerous grandfather; eating just enough to get by. It works well enough until her lab partner, Paul, starts texting and flirting. Syd would respond in kind if she could, but she’s afraid to make eye contact or have conversations with new people—how could she possibly start a relationship? Fading into the background would be ideal, but her gregarious family has other plans. Her mother, revitalizing the family Passover celebration, ropes Syd into embarrassing Jewish singalongs. Worse, Syd’s vivacious sister wants to perform The Vagina Monologues for the school drama festival, and she’s written her own monologue—one that uses “the c-word”! The oozing darkness that dominates Syd’s thoughts is authentically represented in her present-tense narration and appropriately addressed with professional mental health treatment. Frustratingly, however, Syd’s nervousness about romantic and sexual intimacy is pathologized as a curable symptom of her mental illness.

An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the flavor for a tale of recovery and empowerment . (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1184-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches.

QUEERFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

A GUIDE FOR LGBTQ+ CHRISTIAN TEENS

A must-read guide for all queer and questioning Christians (and their allies, too)!

Queer youth still face a multitude of challenges while growing up, and these have the potential to be amplified by religious beliefs. Addressing that issue head-on, this guide for Christians seeks to provide counsel, understanding, and gentle guidance across a series of 40-plus chapters that address everything from coming out in a variety of contexts, positive ways to deal with haters, and helping start the conversation about gender-neutral bathrooms at school, to living authentically. The book acknowledges that the advice is sometimes vague, but that’s because the spectrum of queer life is so broad. In this regard, the book excels by speaking to a range of genders and sexual identities; asexuals, nonbinary people, bisexuals, pansexuals, etc., are all addressed with respect and will find useful tips for navigating their early years. The book works better for hunt-and-peck readers as opposed to those reading from cover to cover because some of the information is repetitious, but that repetition may be necessary to counterbalance years of incorrect, inaccurate, or purposely hateful misinformation. The contributors to this fabulous read include mental health experts and religious leaders. Text boxes, pie charts, graphs, and grayscale illustrations support and enhance the main narrative.

A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches. (note on language, glossary, additional resources, sources) (Self-help. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Beaming Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death...

THE EDGE OF FALLING

Wealthy high school junior Mcalister “Caggie” Caulfield seeks relief from grief over her younger sister’s death by entering into a dangerous relationship with a mysterious boy.

After her little sister drowns in the pool at her family’s beach house in the Hamptons, Caggie wants to die too, to the point that she contemplates jumping off the roof at a friend’s party in Manhattan. A schoolmate named Kristen saves her at the last minute but nearly falls herself. Caggie actually ends up pulling Kristen back and is credited as a hero, which only makes her feel worse. In her grief, Caggie spurns the attentions of her best friend and devoted boyfriend, but she finds a kindred spirit in Astor, a tall, dark and damaged new boy at school who recently lost his mother to cancer. But what Caggie comes to realize about her relationship with Astor is that “[d]arkness stacked on darkness just makes it that much harder to find the light.” After another nearly fatal disaster with Astor at the beach house, Caggie is forced to confront the falsehoods she has told her family and friends and let go of her guilt over her sister’s death. Though Caggie makes a point of telling readers that her paternal grandfather called people like her “phony,” almost nothing is made of the connection to Catcher in the Rye, and it serves merely to make Caggie’s tale suffer by comparison.

Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death and lies. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3316-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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