Elegant, admirable and thought-provoking—but not, alas, engaging.

CIRCLE OF STONES

Myth, fiction and history are layered into a narrative edifice as impressive and impenetrable as the architecture the story celebrates.

In ancient Britain, the druid king Bladud vows to build a great stone temple to honor the healing waters of the goddess Sulis. In 18th-century Aquae Sulis, Zac Stoke is apprenticed to a mystically inclined architect obsessed with transforming the city. And in modern Bath, a troubled teenage girl takes the name Sulis, hoping to elude the terrifying specters from a past that haunts her. Told in alternating chapters with different typefaces and distinctive voices, each protagonist’s account echoes and intertwines with the others: Names, places, events, behavior, words, images—all repeat, reverberating back and forth through time. This is a dazzling literary exercise, constructed with careful precision with patterns and symbols, but it’s so precise and mannered that it repels emotional involvement. Spot illustrations do help illuminate many of these motifs, but readers unfamiliar with the history and architecture of the English city may still be left adrift. The personalities of the characters don’t help: Bladud is grandiloquent and obscure, Zac arrogant and contemptuous, and Sulis shuttered and paranoid. Their interactions with the eponymous stone circles help each to heal and grow, but the mechanism of this transformation remains frustratingly opaque.

Elegant, admirable and thought-provoking—but not, alas, engaging. (Historical fiction/suspense. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3819-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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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