Endearing enough for Smith’s fans, too many subissues hinder an organic unfolding to convert new readers.

HEARTS UNBROKEN

Suburban,” Muscogee (Creek) girl Louise “Lou” Wolfe confronts the politics of being Native in an overwhelmingly white high school while finding first love.

Smith’s (Muscogee) (Feral Pride, 2015, etc.) novel begins “in the residual haze of [Louise’s] junior prom.” Heedless of Lou’s identity, “WASPy boyfriend” Cam insults Native people and then further invalidates the hurt Lou feels. A three-chapter interlude of summer months establishes characters and relationships. The remainder of the story occurs during the autumn of Lou’s senior year. Working for the Hive, the school newspaper, she teams up with possible love interest Joey Kairouz to uncover who’s behind Parents Against Revisionist Theater and its attempt to pull the curtain on the school’s ethnically inclusive fall production of The Wizard of Oz. Anonymous threats, vandalism, and power abuse by parents, school officials, and community members give Smith’s story potential to become an Indigenous version of The Chocolate War. Unfortunately, a chapter devoted to explaining the difference between “color-blind” and “color-conscious,” overly didactic attempts to teach readers about verbal and visual microaggressions and Native stereotypes, and parenthetical asides that read more like authorial intrusions as opposed to the inner thoughts readers would assume from the story’s first-person narration hold it back.

Endearing enough for Smith’s fans, too many subissues hinder an organic unfolding to convert new readers. (author’s note, glossary) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8114-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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

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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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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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