Would have been truly stellar if not for the missed opportunities for positive representation.

BEAUTIFUL MESS

Ava and Gideon are two wounded young people whose unexpected connection provokes the best and worst in each other in this witty Australian import.

Ava is mourning the loss of her best friend, Kelly; Gideon is in the throes of anxiety and depression. As Ava’s life unravels following Kelly’s suicide, Gideon joins her as a fellow employee at The Magic Kebab. The two strike up a bond commiserating over rude customers, Gideon’s poetry, old-fashioned letters they write and mail to one another, and a boss with an unfortunate tattoo. Gideon doesn’t know that Ava is very much involved with her deceased friend’s brother, Lincoln, and Ava doesn’t know how much Gideon is in love with her. Told in alternating voices, this page-turning novel displays a great deal of artful charm. The only low points are the casual amusement Ava displays in response to her Greek immigrant grandmother’s racist remarks. This is particularly troubling as Kelly and Lincoln’s family is Maori (other main characters are white). It also doesn’t help that Lincoln is portrayed negatively, as aggressive and controlling. However, Gideon’s tight-knit family with two loving lesbian moms is a bright spot.

Would have been truly stellar if not for the missed opportunities for positive representation. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-925498-54-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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An atmospheric and creepy page-turner.

I KILLED ZOE SPANOS

Seventeen-year-old Anna Cicconi finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she takes a summer nanny job in the swanky Hamptons enclave of Herron Hills.

Frick begins her story at the end. Well, sort of. August in the Hamptons signals the turning of the leaves and sees the grisly discovery of 19-year-old Zoe Spanos’ body. Zoe disappeared on New Year’s Eve, and Anna, who happens to strongly resemble her, has confessed to her murder. However, Martina Green, who runs the podcast Missing Zoe, doesn’t believe Anna did it and attempts to find out what really happened. Flash back to June: Hard-partying recent high school grad Anna sees her new job caring for Tom and Emilia Bellamy’s 8-year-old daughter as a fresh start. As one sun-drenched day melts into the next, Anna is drawn to Windemere, the neighboring Talbots’ looming, Gothic-style home, and to the brooding, mysterious Caden Talbot. But Anna can’t shake a feeling of déjà vu, and she’s having impossible memories that intertwine her life with Zoe’s. Frick easily juggles multiple narratives, and readers will enjoy connecting the dots of her cleverly plotted thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Anna and Zoe are white; the supporting cast includes biracial characters Martina (Latinx/white) and Caden (black/white). Caden discusses grappling with being raised by white adoptive parents, facing racialized suspicion as Zoe’s boyfriend, and feeling marginalized at Yale.

An atmospheric and creepy page-turner. (map) (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4970-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.

WATCH OVER ME

After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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