THE TRAGEDY PAPER

Boarding school students learn the consequences of poor decision-making.

Last year at the Irving School—motto: “Enter Here to Be and Find a Friend”—something terrible happened. Readers will have to push through nearly 300 pages, narrated alternately by Tim Macbeth, a recently graduated senior who transferred to Irving for his final semester, and Duncan Meade, the current senior who inherited Tim’s dorm room and with it, a stack of CDs containing Tim’s reminiscences of that fateful school term, to find out what it was. Tim, a deeply self-conscious albino, spends an idyllic 18 hours stranded in Chicago with lovely fellow senior Vanessa en route to Irving and is totally smitten. Tim’s hopes are dashed by Vanessa’s commitment to her popularity and her current boyfriend, the loathsome and jealous yet handsome Patrick. Predictably, however, Tim goes along with Vanessa’s furtive occasional advances, all the while whipsawing between his conviction that she cares for him and his crippling self-loathing. Duncan, meanwhile, is alternately transfixed and horrified by Tim’s story, as he feels partly responsible for the terrible outcome of Tim, Vanessa and Patrick’s love triangle and eventually hopes to mine it for his Tragedy Paper, Irving’s multidisciplinary approach to a senior thesis. With his overreliance on obvious foreshadowing, debut author LaBan creates a mystery without thrills and parallel romances that lack any frisson. Readers will wonder, what was the point?

Completely, sadly skippable. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87040-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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