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WHEN WE WAS FIERCE

Direct and raw.

Inner-city gang violence ravages a neighborhood.

When a gang pummels disabled teen Ricky-Ricky, 15-year-old T takes the brave, foolhardy step of crossing a street to see whether Ricky-Ricky’s OK. For T’s boldness, gang leader Money Mike beats T so badly that he lands in the hospital. Ricky-Ricky’s not OK, though; he’s “flat-fixed,” and Money Mike—T’s own brother—is the one who killed him. Now T and his three best friends may be “marked.” “I ain’t no soldier. / I ain’t enlisted,” says T, but this unnamed city’s war of gangs and guns doesn’t care: a storm of “bullets like raindrops” is something that “just happens.” Cops are both useless and dangerous, and there’s reference to their real-world victims (Michael Brown; Freddie Gray); however, the killings here—including T’s father two years ago—are all committed by gangs. This poor, black community wields distinct, poetic, almost Shakespearean word usage: “He wanna have speak”; “We all held our wait.” Barely noticeable toggling between past- and present-tense narration powerfully creates tension and unease. Only the free verse’s frequent apostrophes connoting a dropped letter are stereotypical and distancing. This is a compassionate, forceful look at the heartbreak and choices these black boys and men face at the lethal intersection of poverty and gang culture. Perhaps reflecting T's adolescent solipsism, black girls and women are less well-rounded and seem in no danger of violence themselves (even in reference to real-world police murders, no black women are named).

Direct and raw. (Verse fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7937-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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