THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS

In danger of losing their farm and inspired by Nellie Bly’s round-the-world feat, 18-year-old Clara Estby and her Norwegian immigrant mother, Helga, decide to walk from Mica Creek, near Spokane, Wash., to New York City, a projected May-to-December journey. A publisher has promised them $10,000 if they reach their destination on time. With just the clothes on their backs, a pistol and little else, the women must rely on the kindness of strangers and their own tenacity. When not lost in Idaho’s lava fields, showing Indians in Utah how to use a curling iron, meeting just-elected President William McKinley or uncovering family secrets, they are avoiding rattle snakes, mountain blizzards and assailants. Quiet yet snappy Clara uses the time to decide whether she should marry Erick (who’s already building their marriage bed) or try to make it on her own as a writer. Meanwhile, theatrical Helga uses each stop to promote her suffragist beliefs. Incredibly, the nearly 4,000-mile journey depicted in this debut is based on an actual trek taken by the author’s great-aunt and great-grandmother to save their farm. Clara’s first-person narration starts off strong with lively descriptions (“I was as jumpy as a colt smelling cougar scat”) but rushes toward the end, as if trying to hurry up along with the women. Readers will enjoy the feminist adventures but crave more details. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-618-99983-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE WAY I USED TO BE

In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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