The witty nonchalance of both dialogue and narration keeps this rock-'n'-roll romp light and entertaining and successfully...

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I AM (NOT) THE WALRUS

Toby’s life in Port Jackson, England, is frankly weird.

This makes it hard to concentrate on his recent good luck: getting his first gig for the unnamed two-man band that only plays Beatles’ covers that he has started with best friend Zack. Toby is okay with being atypical, though, his attitude remaining light and carefree despite awkward experiences with girls and rugby. But the use of his older brother’s guitar and other band equipment sets up a moral dilemma when Toby begins to slowly realize that all of it may be stolen. Compounding this, an unusual encounter resulting from a dare Zack proposes may lead to romance with Michelle, a feisty female with her own ideas of right and wrong. Briant has an ear for smart-aleck teen talk and keeps the first-person narration crisp. Through Toby's voice, he allows readers to make small leaps of understanding instead of relying on exposition. First love comes into the story sideways, as do entertaining characters; neither sidetracks the plot, which threads all the events together in a steadily satisfying manner. The focus is on romance, character and, above all, music. Even laid-back Toby is captured by the mystique of the Fender bass and the cloud surrounding its provenance.

The witty nonchalance of both dialogue and narration keeps this rock-'n'-roll romp light and entertaining and successfully balances it with suspense. (Mystery. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7387-3246-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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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Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read.

PUNCHING THE AIR

Reviving a friendship that goes back almost 20 years, Zoboi writes with Exonerated Five member Salaam, exploring racial tensions, criminal injustice, and radical hope for a new day.

Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed When They See Us tells the story of Salaam’s wrongful conviction as a boy, a story that found its way back into the national conversation when, after nearly 7 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared his name. Although it highlights many of the same unjust systemic problems Salaam faced, this story is not a biographical rendering of his experiences. Rather, Zoboi offers readers her brilliance and precision within this novel in verse that centers on the fictional account of 16-year-old Amal Shahid. He’s an art student and poet whose life dramatically shifts after he is accused of assaulting a White boy one intense night, drawing out serious questions around the treatment of Black youth and the harsh limitations of America’s investment in punitive forms of justice. The writing allows many readers to see their internal voices affirmed as it uplifts street slang, Muslim faith, and hip-hop cadences, showcasing poetry’s power in language rarely seen in YA literature. The physical forms of the first-person poems add depth to the text, providing a necessary calling-in to issues central to the national discourse in reimagining our relationship to police and prisons. Readers will ask: Where do we go from here?

Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read. (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299648-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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