Hard-won insight neatly depicted. (Fiction. 12-18)

FIGHT BACK

A boy who has survived years of neglect and abuse get his chance to fight back by becoming a boxer.

Tyler has never been hugged, never known love. His dad gave him a bike when he turned 7 but them mocked him and took it away. His mom left when he was 11, taking his sister but leaving him with his abusive, alcoholic dad. He copes by turning his rage on bullies. He moves in with his neglectful grandmother but is arrested for fighting one night, so his grandmother kicks him out. From here he finds himself placed with a wise middle-aged couple who have foster-care experience. He eats his first good food and learns that his foster dad, Wayne, used to be a boxer. Wayne begins to teach the enthusiastic Tyler, who appears to be a natural, eventually getting the chance for some real amateur bouts. That’s when his past starts to bite, and Tyler realizes that he must overcome the insecurity his father instilled in him before he has a chance to win anything. Sherrard keeps his characters and his story simple, allowing Tyler to relate events. His choice of boxing as a subject allows him to portray a boy whose emotions begin to mature along with his athletic skills.

Hard-won insight neatly depicted. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4594-0859-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: James Lorimer

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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This brutal, emotionally charged novel will grip readers and leave them brokenhearted

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THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

A minute-by-minute account of mass murder at a high school by a former student.

Four students from a range of different backgrounds at Alabama's Opportunity High, all of whom have a history with Tyler, the gunman, take turns telling this harrowing story in the first person. They include his sister, Autumn, and her clandestine girlfriend, Sylv, who have only each other for solace as the home lives of both are in upheaval. Tomás, Sylv's brother, recounts his and his friend Fareed's desperate efforts to help from outside the school's auditorium, where their fellow students and teachers are locked in with Tyler as he picks them off one by one. Finally, Claire, Tyler's ex-girlfriend, realistically agonizes over what to do when she and a few others outside running track realize that the gunshots they hear are coming from inside the school. Grounded in the present, the story makes effective use of flashbacks that lay bare the pain and deception that have led up to the day's horror. The language can occasionally feel a bit melodramatic, with lines like "we're fighting for hope and a thousand tomorrows," but this is a minor side note to this compelling story of terror, betrayal, and heroism.

This brutal, emotionally charged novel will grip readers and leave them brokenhearted . (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2246-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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