Entirely human in its affections and an occasional page-turner.

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STRANGE DAYS

As an impending alien invasion threatens Earth’s future, 17-year-old Latinx Alex Mata grapples with self-doubt, loss, and love in Singer’s assured debut.

Curious times await Alex: Terrifying rumors of alien encounters abound, and dissonant guitars and a teasing voice invade his mind. After an alien murders his parents, he’s wanted for questioning. Fleeing from Los Angeles to Seattle, Alex joins an underground group set on stopping the incoming extraterrestrial menace. Led by enigmatic tech whiz Jeffrey Sabazios, the group of teens must travel through time witnessing—exploring future scenarios and locking them into place—to ensure humanity’s survival. The U.S. government denies all suggestions of alien activity; the president’s daughter, meanwhile, encouraged by a time/mind-traveling Alex, learns the truth and plans on alerting the public. Things eventually, and predictably, take a sinister turn, ending in grim revelations amid an apocalyptic backdrop. The author succeeds more in his development of Alex, a young man learning to deal with his self-worth and feelings for others, including Paul, his white, gay roommate, and a black teen named Corina, his love interest. More intriguing thriller than hardcore science fiction, the novel mixes doses of political intrigue with extraterrestrial dread. Portions of the story are stretched out at unnecessary length, but sweet moments between characters keep things heartfelt.

Entirely human in its affections and an occasional page-turner. (Science-fiction thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4024-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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