An engaging choice for fans of realistic fiction, simultaneously tugging at the heartstrings and uplifting the spirit.

ELEKTRA'S ADVENTURES IN TRAGEDY

After Elektra Kamenides’ mother packs her and her younger sister, Thalia, into the car and announces that they are leaving her father in Mississippi and moving to California, Elektra invokes her mantra: What Would Odysseus Do?

The 16-year-old daughter of Nikos, a prominent scholar of ancient Greece, and Helen, an aspiring author, Elektra is dismayed to find that the boat her mother purchased sight unseen is a roach-infested, mud-bound wreck in a forgotten town outside Silicon Valley. Always close to her father, even Thalia’s endless chipperness and her mother’s insistence that they must, like Emily Dickinson, “dwell in possibility,” cannot lift Elektra’s spirits. The little family is battered by financial troubles, a shocking revelation about Nikos, and the struggle to adapt to living on the cramped, run-down boat. However, they are embraced by the colorful locals who, united in their personal and economic struggles, offer unconditional acceptance. A rich sense of place, clever dialogue, and a charming sibling relationship make this novel stand out. Disappointingly, the book is marked by an absence of modern Greek cultural texture; although Nikos’ father was a Greek immigrant and the entire family recently returned from a sabbatical year spent living in Greece, all the Greek references relate to ancient times. The cast is Latinx and white, and one character has PTSD.

An engaging choice for fans of realistic fiction, simultaneously tugging at the heartstrings and uplifting the spirit. (Fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6303-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE WAY I USED TO BE

In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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