SMASH IT!

Inspired by Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes (2015), a teenager makes a list to change her life.

Olivia Johnson is a 17-year-old Black girl tired of living her life in the background. Spending most of her time with her two best friends, Eli and Dré, as their No. 1 supporter despite more-than-platonic feelings for one of them, and navigating a complex relationship with her mom, Olivia has her fair share of reasons for feeling she is better off hiding in the shadows. An unfortunate experience with being the only one not wearing a costume at a Halloween party due to self-consciousness about her body and being afraid of standing out leads to her making a list of things she wants to do and opportunities she wants to embrace in order to experience a fuller life. It begins with doing the thing that scares her most: auditioning for the school musical. Following her list spurs welcome changes and unwelcome drama in her life, and Olivia finds she has to rise to the challenges despite feeling unprepared for all of it. Simone’s prose masterfully crafts an honest and likable voice in Olivia that is bolstered by the cast of diverse supporting characters and combines that with compelling, well-paced plot points. Readers will find themselves rapt with anticipation and excitement and filled with compassion for Olivia’s journey to self-acceptance and self-love.

Stellar. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-14650-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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