THE TENT

A PARABLE IN ONE SITTING

A formulaic rags-to-riches tale about learning a skill and becoming a success, with an odd twist: The skill in question is preaching at religious revivals. Steven's father gets tired of working for minimum wage and decides to try his luck at evangelism, about which he knows nothing. Steven, 14, is initially skeptical, but comes around once the business takes off. Readers watch them gradually learn how things are done, from their uncertain first steps (about something as basic as setting up a tent), to a more confident position (they win over a hostile audience), to their eventual rise to success (they incorporate "healing" into the act). Their progress is measured by the increasing sums of money in the collection: $28, $150, $300, and much more, until Steven has run out of hiding places for it. The fake cripples who orchestrate the healings are genuinely colorful characters, full of insight: "Ever wonder why profits and prophets sound so much alike?" But as soon as he reaches the top, Steven's father has a revelation and, reforming in the last ten pages of the novel, decides to give away all the money and spend the rest of the summer preaching for real. This has a slightly manipulative plot — the kind that overwhelms the protagonists, and makes readers willing to swallow any details as long as the characters reach their goal — accompanied by some light moralizing by Steven (the narration remains gracefully nonjudgmental), which is always peripheral to the action and takes center stage only at the end. As with all stories of success, the most enjoyable thing about this book is how quickly it reads. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-15-292879-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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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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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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