An intriguing story with broad appeal.

SAFE HARBOUR

Fourteen-year-old Harbour Mandrayke, a home-schooled teen from Florida, spends the summer waiting in Toronto for her father to arrive on his sailboat.

Harbour, whose Canadian mother is deceased, and her trusty furry companion, Tuff Stuff, live by their wits, camping in a ravine. She’s armed with her dad’s quirky summer reading list and the resources of the local library. However, Harbour’s father is weeks late from his scheduled arrival date, and her credit card has been declined. Deeply in denial, Harbour meets Lise Roberts, a street-wise 16-year-old with locs, eyebrow rings, and a beautiful smile, who knows how to navigate the Toronto streets and shelters. Lise’s expertise comes in handy as winter approaches and Harbour’s damp, cold tent makes daily life nearly impossible. Harbour’s study of philosophical greats like Paramahansa Yogananda helps her learn to read people and build the patience and resolve to endure the harshest winter she’s ever experienced while dependent on the whims of strangers. Trust issues and dark family secrets threaten to shake Harbour and Lise’s budding friendship in this gritty, highly engaging, realistic mystery that captures the harsh realities of homeless teens in crisis. This plot-driven novel with well-drawn characters will pull readers into a devastating tale of intrigue and redemption. Fans of Homecoming by Cynthia Voight (1981) and Roam by C.H. Armstrong (2019) will appreciate this book. Characters are assumed white.

An intriguing story with broad appeal. (Mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4597-4518-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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