This is powerful, top-notch storytelling from Almond, who seems himself to be the titular “half a creature from the sea,” in...

HALF A CREATURE FROM THE SEA

A LIFE IN STORIES

Award-winning British novelist Almond (Kit’s Wilderness, 1999; The Fire-Eaters, 2004, etc.) offers readers a glimpse into the workings of his alchemical imagination in this collection of eight otherworldly short stories set in his hometown of Felling-on-Tyne.

Almond’s small-town stories of savage bullies and beautiful souls are so alive and vividly spun they often feel at least partly true. Here, the author prefaces each fictional short story with some autobiographical context. “Slog’s Dad,” about a father who returns from heaven to visit his son, was inspired by a Raymond Carver line “I’ve got how much longer?” In “May Malone,” May calls a Catholic priest a “bliddy liar” in church just as one of the author’s friends did, and “The Missing Link” was going to be an “outsider” story but ended up a ghost story. The tale-behind-the-tale preludes are intriguing—perhaps especially to big fans and those interested in the writing process—but the stories themselves shine brightest here. Taylor’s illustrations, sometimes cartoonish, sometimes more abstract and moody, cast the Almondine experience in yet another new light.

This is powerful, top-notch storytelling from Almond, who seems himself to be the titular “half a creature from the sea,” in that he, as ever, fluidly blends past and future, the living and the dead, the ordinary and the transcendent. (Fiction/memoir. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7877-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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

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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