Middle and high school readers will pass this powerful, engaging story around and around. Adults should be ready to join in...

EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR

A driven cheerleader confronts life and relationships following her sexual assault.

When Hermione Winters arrives at Camp Manitouwabing for the final pre-season cheer camp of her high school career, she’s prepared for intense competition and exhausting practices. Working with her fierce best friend Polly as co-captain, Hermione anticipates athletic challenges and triumphs—not being drugged and raped at a camp dance. Because her rapist leaves her propped up on a rock in the camp’s lake, there’s little DNA evidence to be recovered, and Hermione has no memory of what happened to her. When a pregnancy test two weeks later yields a positive result, Hermione knows she has a second chance at justice. Johnston’s clever—but never precious—update of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is unflinching but not at all graphic in its treatment of sexual violence and abortion and likewise honestly confronts the wider repercussions of rape culture and victim-blaming, particularly in small towns. Hermione’s is one type of sexual-assault and trauma-survival story: she enjoys all the advantages of being popular and middle-class, and she gets the help she needs so she can continue to enjoy that life. This doesn’t make Hermione’s journey easy; her victories are earned. An author’s note follows, explaining that Hermione's experience is a best-case scenario, providing links for both U.S. and Canadian resources, and offering encouragement to readers not so lucky as Hermione.

Middle and high school readers will pass this powerful, engaging story around and around. Adults should be ready to join in the discussion that follows. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-99458-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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