Daring, beautiful, and necessary.

A Bronx teen is compelled to explore a free, expressive life by any means necessary.

In this novel in verse, Cerulean Gene, a nonbinary Black high school senior, is frustrated with school, especially with their inexperienced, highly problematic teacher. For Cerulean, Mr. Schlauss’ apathy as an educator is a microcosm reflecting an inadequate educational system. Cerulean finds relief from repeated run-ins with their white teacher in a tightknit friend group that includes their partner, Zaria, and friends Irvin and Jai. The self-proclaimed “Bronx babies” save their money in hopes of funding a summer in California “to create some other kind of world / somewhere / that’d allow all of us to be ourselves.” Cerulean’s parents have built a vibrant and grounding home, encouraging them and their younger brother, Airyn, to become their full selves and to embrace self-preservation as needed: “my parents never / stopped living their lives / when they had us / they just moved things around / so that all of us could have whatever / we needed to keep becoming // ourselves.” But when a life-changing event befalls the Gene family, Cerulean must determine how free they want to be. Through artful writing, 2020 National Book Award finalist Iloh builds an intriguing and relatable world led by a charming protagonist. The poems ease into one another, threading a refreshing story of honing one’s voice, intuition, and independence.

Daring, beautiful, and necessary. (Verse fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780593529317

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023


There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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