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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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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