A heartfelt, charming coming-of-age story with a strong message.

THE BOY WHO LIVED IN THE CEILING

In Thurlbourn’s YA novel, a homeless boy and a lonely girl become unlikely companions when she discovers that he’s been secretly living in her attic.

When teenage Freddie first enters the Johnson family’s home, it’s only because they’ve left their door ajar after going on vacation, and he means to close it after coming inside for a moment to warm up. However, desperation makes him stay longer. Abandoned by his parents and without other support, Freddie realizes that having a place to shower, sleep, and wash his clothes could give him the leg up he needs to get out of poverty. Things go awry, though, when the Johnsons return home unexpectedly, and Freddie hastily hides himself in their attic. He reluctantly decides to continue to live there and to eventually slip away after he’s saved up enough money. In the process, he becomes aware of the Johnson family’s many troubles, including the fact that teenage daughter Violet’s transfer to a new school has made her a target of bullying. Later, Freddie reveals himself when he saves Violet from an attempted assault by one of her classmates. Against all odds, she agrees to keep his secret, and the two form an unlikely bond. But as they grow closer, it becomes clear that there are secrets in Freddie’s past that could end their relationship before it truly begins. Thurlbourn does an exceptional job of taking an unnerving premise and spinning it into a lovely story about compassion and self-acceptance. Throughout, the author explores Freddie’s and Violet’s inner lives, giving their struggles shape and nuance, and portrays Freddie’s situation with grace and sensitivity. Despite the presence of a few genre clichés (such as a shallow friend-turned-bully), the narrative never feels trite or contrived. It also thoughtfully touches on everyday realities of unhoused people in a realistic way: “He’d written about his nights wandering town because he had nowhere to sleep and moving was better than staying still”; “It was the most he’d spoken in so long that he felt a little breathless.” It’s a sincere story with likable protagonists that balances romance, suspense, sorrow, and humor.

A heartfelt, charming coming-of-age story with a strong message.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-07-913500-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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