Original and intriguing; a powerful debut.

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LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED

Budding actor Rebecca Rivers knows who she is and where she’s going; she’s also shadowed by an old, unearned middle school reputation that refuses to die.

Getting the lead in every school play, the only actor exempt from the director’s caustic criticism, Rebecca knows she’s envied by some, but her theater cohort—the Essential Five —has her back, right? But as rumors based on her past resurface and affect her intensifying relationship with Charlie Lamb, she finds there’s a lot she doesn’t know about her fellow thespian overachievers. Tensions mount as floating rumors accrete to and harm a faculty member. Meanwhile, getting to know her estranged sister, Mary, prompts Rebecca to question her own assumptions and their provenance. In the standard-issue teen-lit template—present-tense narration, narrowly focused time span, text larded with brand names and cultural icons—the past is an afterthought, viewed in brief flashbacks. Here, time passes, opening up new narrative possibilities. Rebecca’s understanding of those around her and her place among them evolves over several years, giving both her and readers access to retrospective wisdom. Her world’s sculpted by contemporary culture’s relentless pace, lack of privacy, and unprecedented need—and ability—to label and respond to every transient permutation of human behavior. Theater’s the single constant in Rebecca’s life, a prism through which to interpret life for others and for herself.

Original and intriguing; a powerful debut. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-5254-2823-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...

DEAR MARTIN

In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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