An agreeable but unbalanced work that aims high but ends up a bit too short.

BE GOOD BE REAL BE CRAZY

Two teens find romance on the road.

White teen Homer spends his days working in his adoptive fathers’ Florida tourist-trap gift shop and pining for the older, pregnant, mysteriously accented, and racially ambiguous Mia. When Mia decides to skip town and join her long-lost sister up north, Homer and his younger brother, Einstein, offer to drive her in a beat-up car purchased by their empathetic fathers. The resulting road trip ambles here and there as the trio encounters increasingly absurd characters, even taking along a teenage Indian-American historical re-enactment worker along the way. All this goofy nonsense is infused with several dashes of magical realism that allow the residents of each stop to happily provide a veiled piece of advice at the perfect moment. It all feels just a bit too twee, and the emotional story (Homer needs to admit his feelings to Mia and allow himself to let her go) has a too-familiar vibe. Readers will get déjà vu as Homer and Mia circle each other flirtatiously over and over again, from the book itself and the better works that have come before. The quirkiness that surrounds the couple just overwhelms them. For this enterprise to work, the emotional truth needs to balance out the zany world they live in, and that balance simply isn’t here.

An agreeable but unbalanced work that aims high but ends up a bit too short. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229372-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

I AM NOT STARFIRE

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC Comics

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability.

ROSIE LOVES JACK

A teen with Down syndrome runs away to find her boyfriend when her parents forbid their relationship.

Sixteen-year-old Rose Tremayne and her boyfriend, Jack, were made for each other. Jack, who was born with a brain injury, helps Rosie with reading and writing; Rosie calms his anger issues. But after a violent outburst, Jack is sent away—and Rosie’s parents think she should forget him. Rosie resolves to find Jack herself, taking the train to London alone and venturing into the city’s labyrinthine subway system. As she copes with transportation setbacks, she encounters assorted strangers—some kind and some with unsavory intentions. Though secondary characters lack depth, Rosie’s narration sympathetically expresses her determination, frustration, and naïveté in equal measure, and others’ patronizing and rude reactions to her disability are sadly realistic. However, much of the plot feels contrived. Despite Darbon’s efforts to show that Rosie is more than her Down syndrome, she doesn’t escape being a symbol of childlike innocence, a problematic trope. While a twist darkly demonstrates how people with intellectual disabilities can be targets of abuse, its execution is somewhat implausible. Portrayed primarily through Jack’s misspelled postcards and florid prose such as “The sun came out in my head and my heart grew wings and took me up to the moon,” the romance never quite feels three-dimensional; the ending, though touching, is rather pat. Most characters default to White.

An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability. (author's note) (Romance. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68263-289-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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