This intense, timely story provides incredible insight into the reasons why knowledge of football’s potential danger is not...

HIT COUNT

A high school football player is relentless in his effort to become a ferocious linebacker, ignoring the damage his body may be experiencing.

Arlo loves football and happily follows his brother, Lloyd, on the school team. His family is divided: his dad supports their playing, but their mother is so concerned about the sport’s dangers that she keeps her own file of information about concussions. The two brothers begin to move in opposite directions with the team, Lloyd quitting and Arlo becoming more determined to get faster and stronger. Lloyd enters a downward spiral, seemingly unable to stop it; meanwhile, Arlo becomes a nearly unstoppable star, but his fierce play begins to trouble his coaches and his girlfriend. Even when he is removed from the team due to his high “Hit Count,” he refuses to face what football may be doing to his brain and his body. The strength of this hard-hitting novel is Lynch’s portrayal of the drive and hunger of young football players. The action is authentic and captures the game’s speed and violence. The family dynamic and Arlo’s relationships with his girlfriend and friend add texture. These combine to counteract an uneven pace and relatively loose structure.

This intense, timely story provides incredible insight into the reasons why knowledge of football’s potential danger is not enough to keep young players from taking the field. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61620-250-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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