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

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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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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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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