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

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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 story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT

Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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