A hard, cleareyed look at coming of age in a prejudiced world.

RADICAL

Bex struggles to find acceptance for her nontraditional gender expression and her sexual orientation within her family and within the doomsday survivalist community she longs to join.

Since she’s been at odds with her family over her survivalist interests in addition to her masculine appearance, her father’s and brother’s decisions to join a new survivalist organization surprise Bex. Joining them on visits to the organization’s developing compound, Bex finds that her desire for fellowship overrides her concerns about some members’ misogyny, homophobia, and racism (which suggests that the majority of the novel’s cast is white). Even as her brother’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and aggressive, Bex is unwilling to consider the community’s potential dark side. She’s also distracted when Lucy arrives for the summer and presents Bex with her first opportunity for a lesbian relationship (though it remains a secret from other characters). Readers of all sexual orientations will relate to Bex’s intoxicated blend of nerves and anticipation regarding Lucy. Many will also understand her instinctive motivation to maintain relationship harmony by minimizing her survivalist activities—though ultimately this becomes impossible. And then, quite suddenly, Bex can’t avoid facing the dark truths of her family and chosen community. Kokie takes her time developing characters and setting the plot in motion, creating a believable lesbian protagonist who wants to belong to a world that doesn’t particularly want her.

A hard, cleareyed look at coming of age in a prejudiced world. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6962-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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