Despite a promising hook and some interesting core ingredients, this book fails to deliver on its full potential.

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MY TOTEM CAME CALLING

Seventeen-year-old Chanda keeps seeing a zebra—her sacred totem that represents her kinship to others who share it.

This, combined with her frequent lapses in memory, make her parents consider institutionalization in a hospital. Chanda turns to an aunt who advises her to go back to her family’s village to get the answers and cure she needs. The journey proves more taxing than Chanda anticipated, and going from her privileged urban life in Harare, Zimbabwe, to rural Gumindoga is more than Chanda feels she can bear; she wants to leave almost immediately. However, it seems destiny has plans for her, and she is again reminded of how little she can control when she tries to leave. Chanda's story touches on the duality of and relationship between modern Western vs. holistic traditional approaches and attitudes to mental health and medical conditions. The novel would have benefited from a better developed plot and characters whose relationships exhibited greater depth, both of which would have made the conclusion feel more climactic. The uneven pacing results in insufficient attention being paid to scenes that bear relevance to Chanda’s problems. The central themes—that we are more connected than we may realize and that unlearned history is bound to repeat itself—do not feel fully fleshed out. Chanda and her family are Shona.

Despite a promising hook and some interesting core ingredients, this book fails to deliver on its full potential. (Fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-988449-75-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Mawenzi House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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 emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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