Not just another addition to the “sick-lit” genre, this debut is hands-down one of a kind. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

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TELL ME SOMETHING REAL

It’s the summer of 1976, and the Babcock sisters are preparing to say goodbye to their terminally ill mother.

There’s musically gifted 16-year-old Vanessa, narrator and middle sister; foulmouthed artist Adrienne; and 9-year-old, saint-obsessed Marie. The white girls spend most of their days at a Mexican clinic where their mother receives infusions of Laetrile—a cyanide-based cancer treatment banned in the States. Their father’s domineering boss keeps him working long hours, leaving the girls to take care of their mother and one another. Caleb, a clinic patient and also white, brings some light into Vanessa’s life when he and his mother, Barb, move into the Babcock’s San Diego home while Caleb undergoes treatment. Then the metaphorical bomb drops: Mom’s diagnosis is more complicated than the girls had thought. Vanessa’s present-tense narration allows her sisters, their father (finally taking a leave of absence), and Caleb and Barb to communicate their feelings through both their conversations with Vanessa and her observations of their actions. It’s rare to find such a large group of characters who are so well-developed as to be almost real, and the prose is eloquent and precise, every word chosen with care.

Not just another addition to the “sick-lit” genre, this debut is hands-down one of a kind. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6115-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A resounding success.

CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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