A well-written and emotionally involving teen tale with fine characterization but an unresolved ending.

LOVE AND OTHER SINS

In this debut YA novel, two misfit teenagers navigate a romantic relationship and face down painful legacies.

Mina Nikolaevna Arkova, the 17-year-old daughter of Soviet immigrants, has never quite fit in; other kids “never seemed to recognize me as one of their own species.” For her senior year of high school, she’s transferring from a tony private school to a grittier, less expensive one in Hollywood. Saving money is important ever since her mother lost one of her jobs and her father took off. Mina plans on earning stellar grades, going to a top-flight university, and becoming a lawyer, although her real love is dancing. Oliver Mondell, 17, has chosen this new name as part of his new life. As a foster child and survivor of sexual abuse, he has excellent reasons for putting his miserable past behind him. Now, he’s moving to Los Angeles, finishing high school, and developing his lucrative business buying and selling smartphones. When Mina and Oliver meet, they share a strong attraction, but their personal issues create a push-pull dynamic that complicates coming to each other’s emotional rescue. Just as they reach an understanding, violence erupts in Mina’s life, the story to continue in a second installment. In her novel, Ares displays a gift for capturing the complex inner lives of teenagers through Mina’s and Oliver’s alternating first-person chapters. They’re authentically slang-y and teenage-lusty; they struggle with believable, significant internal and external conflicts; and they’re thoughtful about fate, the future, and each other. Other characters, too, are well drawn, such as Mina’s overreacting but endearing mother: “All I wishing is for you to be safe and not to killing my nerves anymore.” Structurally, the book is slow to develop and then ends on a cliffhanger—an unsatisfying combination.

A well-written and emotionally involving teen tale with fine characterization but an unresolved ending.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73681-400-0

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Sera Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2021

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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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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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