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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Summery fun and games with feeling.

THE SUMMER OF BROKEN RULES

A summer trip helps break 18-year-old Meredith Fox out of a haze of mourning.

Her cousin’s wedding means a return to Martha’s Vineyard, a well-loved destination but one filled with bittersweet memories. It’s been a year and a half since the sudden loss of Meredith’s sister, Claire, and the grief remains strong. Meredith, though, resolves to take this time to celebrate family and bridge the rifts resulting from ghosting friends. She didn’t plan on a meet-cute/embarrassing encounter with the groom’s stepbrother, Wit. Nor did she expect a wedding-week game of Assassin, a water-gun–fueled family tradition. What starts off as a pact of sharing strategic information with Wit grows into something more as the flirting and feelings develop. Only one person can win, though, and any alliance has an expiration date. To win and honor Claire, who was a master of the game, Meredith must keep her eye on the prize. Taking place over the course of a week, the narrative is tight with well-paced reveals that disrupt predictability and keep the plot moving. Early details are picked back up, and many elements come satisfyingly full circle. The short time frame also heightens the tension of this summer romance: What will happen when they leave the bubble of the Vineyard? The mix of budding romance, competitive hijinks, a close-knit circle, as well as dealing with loss make for a satisfying read. The main cast is White.

Summery fun and games with feeling. (family tree) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-029-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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