Compelling snapshots of contemporary family drama and the AIDS epidemic as captured through a teen’s eyes.

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SKYSCRAPING

A teenage girl grapples with her family’s growing pains.

Set in early 1990s Manhattan as the AIDS crisis was hitting its peak, Jensen’s semiautobiographical debut novel in verse explores how shifting parental dynamics can affect a household. At the novel’s start, Miranda “Mira” Stewart has always been a dedicated student and engaged daughter, devoted to her academician father and younger sister and struggling to relate to her self-involved artist mother. Her biggest concerns are what theme to choose as she takes the editorial helm of her high school yearbook, how to negotiate the absence of her recently graduated boyfriend, and filling out college applications—all typical senior-year fare. “But the constellation of a family / can shift shape / in seconds.” When Mira discovers her father in a compromising position with his male teaching assistant, both her image of him and her understanding of her parents’ relationship collapse. Mira withdraws from her family and acts out at school, at first unwilling to forgive her parents for having kept a crucial part of their relationship hidden. Throughout, Jensen’s spare free-verse poems and accessible imagery realistically portray the fraught moments of adolescent identity formation with great empathy.

Compelling snapshots of contemporary family drama and the AIDS epidemic as captured through a teen’s eyes. (Historical fiction/verse. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16771-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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A riveting tour de force.

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SADIE

Sadie is seeking her sister’s killer; months later, podcast producer West McCray seeks to learn why Sadie abandoned her car and vanished.

When Mattie was born to Claire, a white, drug-addicted, single mother, Sadie, 6, became her de facto parent. Her baby sister’s love filled a hole in Sadie’s fiercely protective heart. Claire favored Mattie, who remained attached to her long after Claire disappeared from their grim, trailer-park home in rural Colorado. Sadie believes that Mattie’s determination to find Claire—which Sadie opposed—led to her brutal murder at age 13. Now 19, Sadie sets out to find and kill the man she holds responsible for her sister’s murder. Interwoven with Sadie’s first-person account is the transcript of McCray’s podcast series, The Girls, tracking his efforts to learn what’s happened to Sadie, prompted and partly guided by the sisters’ sympathetic neighbor. West’s off-the-record conversations are also included. Sadie is smart, observant, tough, and at times heartbreakingly vulnerable, her interactions mediated by a profound stutter. In the podcast, characters first seen through Sadie’s ruthless eyes further reveal (or conceal) their interactions and motives. Like Salla Simukka’s Lumikki Andersson, Sadie’s a powerful avatar: the justice-seeking loner incarnated as a teenage girl. Sadie exempts no one—including herself—from her unsparing judgment. Conveyed indirectly through its effect on victims, child sexual abuse permeates the novel as does poverty’s intergenerational legacy.

A riveting tour de force. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-10571-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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