A character-driven book for readers who like their fare on the intense side.

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PEARL

The daughter of a drug-addicted rock star tries to change her life when her uncle sends her to an exclusive prep school.

Pearl’s mom briefly was the Grammy-nominated leader of a band before disintegrating into hopeless drug addiction. Named after the Janis Joplin album, Pearl simply tries to survive with her mother until her mom nearly kills her by accidentally burning down their homeless shelter. Pearl’s rich uncle reluctantly steps in to pay her tuition to the prep school his daughters attended. There, she becomes involved in her dorm’s social life, which includes sneaking out to smoke and drink. She encounters a mix of hostile and supportive classmates and falls for Grant, a romance that’s threatened when Pearl spends the summer in a design institute program with girls who get her seriously involved with drugs. She begins to discover herself in an advanced art class run by an emotionally intense teacher. Will she manage to save herself from her mother’s fate or succumb to it herself? Pearl’s love/hate relationship with her mother threatens to dominate her life unless she can find herself and become free from her past. Hall writes with confidence as she delves ever deeper into her character’s portrayal, just as Pearl tries to paint her own portrait. Pearl’s granular, present-tense narration makes for an introspective, even claustrophobic read.

A character-driven book for readers who like their fare on the intense side. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5039-4858-7

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Skyscape

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.

GEESE ARE NEVER SWANS

Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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