A clever, hilarious, and empathetic look at diverse teens exploring authenticity, identities, and code-switching.

SUPER FAKE LOVE SONG

Fake it till you make it?

Unlike Gray, his aspiring rock star older brother, camera-shy Korean American teen Sunny Dae loves sharing his nerdy hobbies of live-action role-playing Dungeons & Dragons and designing cosplay props with his best friends, Milo and Jamal, despite the bullying he receives from a school jock. Milo is Guatemalan American and Jamal is Jamaican American, and the trio have bonded in their Southern California town that is over 99% White. Then Sunny meets Rancho Ruby High School’s newest student, the beautiful, worldly, music-loving, Korean American Cirrus Soh. Soon, he finds himself doing things he’s never done before, like pretending his brother’s band is actually his. Yoon captures the humor, the heart, and the universal anxieties—and possibilities—of trying on new identities in high school while also exploring microaggressions, toxic masculinity, bullying, parachute parenting, and classism. The book cautions readers against judging character based solely on outward appearances. Part of its brilliance lies in how it shows the ways Sunny’s and Gray’s desires for acceptance and popularity reflect what they see as their parents’ own efforts to keep up with the Joneses. Dungeons & Dragons fans will appreciate the symbolic parallels between Sunny’s story arc and the fate of the paladin figurine he made in middle school.

A clever, hilarious, and empathetic look at diverse teens exploring authenticity, identities, and code-switching. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984812-23-0

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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