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

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 grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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