A thought-provoking work that will encourage readers to learn more about the world of Elizabethan theater.

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I WAS CLEOPATRA

All the world’s a stage, and for John Rice the stage is also his life, the scene of his greatest triumphs and the repository of his personal insecurities.

Abrams’ (The Play’s the Thing, 2015, etc.) novel is a fictional biography of the Elizabethan child actor believed to have originally played many of Shakespeare’s major female roles, including Lady Macbeth, Cordelia, and Desdemona. The story opens with Rice’s birth as the second son of a successful glove-maker. As one of seven children, Rice struggles to find his place in society, lacking the physical talents to follow in his father’s footsteps. His life changes when the King’s Men—the most famous theatrical troupe in London—comes to his hometown of Reading. Rice is transfixed by Alexander Cook’s performance of Rosalind and, with his father’s blessing, becomes the company’s apprentice, poised to take over the ingénue roles as Alexander ages out of them. What follows is a poignant coming-of-age tale that explores the complexities of youth and gender performance. Rice is a compelling protagonist, and his journey showcases the theater’s unique ability to free its denizens from mainstream societal expectations, although as he rises in the company he grapples with a Peter Pan–like horror of aging.

A thought-provoking work that will encourage readers to learn more about the world of Elizabethan theater. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-022-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...

DEAR MARTIN

In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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