A noteworthy take on vulnerability and seeking help that doesn’t offer platitudes.

NOT MY PROBLEM

Sixteen-year-old Irish student Aideen Cleary faces some big obstacles.

After walking in on perfectionist classmate Meabh Kowalska, daughter of the school principal, crying in the toilets, Aideen gets roped into a drastic plan to help her fix her problems. Aided by Kavi Thakrar, a witness to Aideen’s pushing Meabh down the stairs—part of their harebrained scheme—Aideen soon finds herself running a favor-for-favor business for the student body. She silently struggles with her own home life while solving the issues of others to cope with her feelings of helplessness. Smyth paints a snapshot of someone who appears to have everything sorted but on the inside is falling apart at the seams. Aideen begins somewhat rough at the edges and soon becomes a character readers can easily root for: Between her mother’s drinking problem and her own failing grades, Aideen deals with issues faced by many young people. A spark of emotional authenticity runs throughout, making the narrative engaging and enjoyable. The language used is very Irish, featuring sentence structures and colloquialisms that set the cultural scene in a completely natural way. Aideen and Meabh are both lesbian, and while Aideen mentions experiencing some homophobia in the past, it is not the focus of the story; ethnic diversity is similarly part of the background texture.

A noteworthy take on vulnerability and seeking help that doesn’t offer platitudes. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-295714-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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