A superb novel from a rising Canadian literary star, best for adult and mature crossover readers

YOUR CONSTANT STAR

Pregnancy, adoption and parenting decisions past and present link—and haunt—a Chinese-Canadian adoptee, her now-pregnant former friend and the biological father-to-be.

Cherished only child of professional parents, Faye conforms outwardly to model-minority expectations, but she hides her grief and the need to process the gulf between her Chinese birth mother’s options and her own. This intensifies when Bev asks Faye to help her interview prospective adoptive parents. Bev’s fractured family is useless. She’s at odds with her long-divorced parents, estranged from half siblings, and grieving a loss that taking risks and impulsive behavior can’t assuage. Father-to-be Mannie, the most damaged, struggles to rise to the occasion, but his father’s abandonment and bipolar mother’s institutionalization leave him short of role models. Grim yes, but the three are smart and good company, though so caustic that reading can feel like chugging a bottle of expensive vinegar—best appreciated in small doses. Still, authentic teen characters, closely observed settings and a moving plot do not a YA novel make. These protagonists have little room to act. Choices adults made in the past largely determine the course they set and drastically limit the choices they wrestle with now. Though teens have far less freedom of choice in life than in literature written for them, YA fiction by definition places the reins in their hands.

A superb novel from a rising Canadian literary star, best for adult and mature crossover readers . (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0368-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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

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GIRL IN PIECES

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 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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