A thoughtful dystopian drama.

WHISPER

Struyk-Bonn’s debut offers a darkly hopeful take on the universal themes of family and identity.  

Born with a cleft palate and exiled to the wilderness of an unnamed country for 15 years, Whisper has made a ragged family of her fellow outcasts, all of whom bear some disfigurement. Upon her mother’s death, her abusive father comes to claim her for a slave. With nothing but a violin, a veil, and the memories of her mother and makeshift family, Whisper discovers that she has a rudimentary power over the society that scorns her. Class and gender questions arise: Is the omnipresent SWINC corporation responsible for a rise in genetic defects? Why do disfigured boys remain in their villages? She soon lives hand to mouth as a busker for Purgatory Palace, a ribald community of misfits where the threat of prostitution or capture is never far. Whisper’s somewhat fairy-tale luck in finding benefactors—a fatherly music professor and a surgeon among them—is tempered by her literally brutal realization that she bridges two worlds and doesn’t belong completely in either. Thus, her dilemma is agonizing: If the surgeon could cure Whisper and her family, would she agree? The author’s vivid characterizations give this common trope urgency and nuance, and Whisper’s answer resonates with hard-won conviction.

A thoughtful dystopian drama. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0475-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

INDIVISIBLE

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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