Masquerades as historical fiction, but given its ahistorical plot, one would do well to read it as fantasy.

THE INVINCIBLE SUMMER OF JUNIPER JONES

An unlikely friendship emerges between an angry boy and a girl whose outlook rivals Pollyanna’s.

Rising 10th grader Ethan Charlie Harper can’t believe his white father sent him from Arcadia, Washington, to Ellison, Alabama, to spend the summer with his paternal aunt, Cara, and her husband, Robert, to punish him for hitting a white boy in school who called Ethan a half-breed and his mother the N-word. In 1955, blacks aren’t welcome in lily-white Ellison, but Ethan’s divorced, single father seems unconcerned. While Ethan is tending his uncle’s malt shop, Juniper Jones, a loquacious, redheaded, blue-eyed tornado of a girl, barges into the shop and entices Ethan to become her summer adventure buddy. Talkative as Anne of Green Gables and imaginative as Bridge to Terabithia’s Leslie, Juniper breathes life into Ethan’s hot, dreary days and helps him process his anger and resentment toward his parents. She is an appealing, well-drawn character who steals the show. When Ethan hits another white bully, the plot turns deadly. Set in the year of Emmett Till’s murder, this story portrays a close and visible friendship between a white girl and a black boy that would not likely have been possible or tolerated in Alabama. Any reader who knows this history will read with trepidation, anticipating tragedy in every chapter.

Masquerades as historical fiction, but given its ahistorical plot, one would do well to read it as fantasy. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-98936-516-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wattpad Books

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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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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