Evocative setting but overwritten prose.

PENNY HIKE

An abused young teenager deals with his mother’s cancer while making new friends in this YA novel set in Somerville, Mass.

In Richardson’s debut young-adult novel, set in 1980, a 13-year-old boy’s life changes after his mother’s death. Finbar “Fin” O’Connell has been sexually and mentally abused by his uncle Steve ever since he and his mother moved in with him after Fin’s father was convicted of murder. When Fin’s mother develops lung cancer, suffers a stroke and ends up hospitalized, Fin tearfully explains that he doesn’t want to go back to his uncle—and why. His friend’s compassionate father, Mr. Squillante, is happy to take him in, but a police “investigation” (which does not include examining Fin in any way) reveals no evidence of abuse. Still, Fin manages to find a way to live with the Squillantes. New friends and kind adults help the boy handle his changing circumstances. Richardson shows an intimate knowledge of Somerville and its every street corner: The kids play the street game relievio, “where one team would hide and the other team would seek out the hiders and round them up on porches.” The novel lacks subtlety, however, laying everything on thick—teen-boy sarcasm and grossness, Boston accents, moral lessons. The most glaring fault, though, is how easily things work out for Fin. With his mother still on her deathbed, he reflects, “I had some special moments with my mom…and I am stahting to feel grateful for having those memories because they’ll always be in my haht.” Effective consolations on being orphaned include living with the Squillantes (“awesome”), winning girlfriend Penny’s heart, and being the hero of his school’s floor-hockey tournament on the very day of his mother’s wake—which he calls, “the best moment of my life.”

Evocative setting but overwritten prose.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494436452

Page Count: 224

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2014

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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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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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