A fine addition to the literature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

PERSONAL EFFECTS

"Embrace the suck," is Matt Foster's older brother T.J.'s advice to him, and he's got a whole lot of suck to embrace.

Not only did T.J. leave Matt with their vicious, alcoholic father—their bipolar mother died years ago—when he enlisted and then deployed to the Middle East, now he is dead. Their father resolutely refuses to talk about T.J., and he's hidden the small bag of stuff the "uniforms" brought the Fosters when they notified them of T.J'.s death. Under suspension for fighting—and threat of "so help me…" if he doesn't get his ass back in gear—Matt finds an unexpected opportunity when more uniforms drop off his brother’s remaining personal effects: trunks containing photographs of a beautiful black woman and her family and often-steamy letters from “C.” With help from his lifelong friend Shauna, he plots an escape to Madison, Wisc., where he hopes to connect with his brother's memory. Matt tells his tale in an almost excruciatingly deliberate present-tense narration; Kokie grounds readers so thoroughly in Matt’s misery that they will be as itchy to escape the brutal emptiness of life with his father as he is. Realistically, though the inevitable revelation and resolution bring peace to Matt, they do not heal his father; readers will just have to hope he can make it through.

A fine addition to the literature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5527-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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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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