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SKYSCRAPING

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

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 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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INDIVISIBLE

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

A standing ovation.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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