A teen tale that avoids easy answers while gliding to a confident landing.


This YA sequel sees the bond between two Connecticut teenagers tested by drugs, family dysfunction, and even death.

On Christmas Eve 1984, high school junior Deacon Giroux wakes in a Connecticut hospital. Days ago, he’d been shot by his half brother, Toby, and many—including his girlfriend, 16-year-old Hannah Zandana—believe he is dead. Very much alive, the teen drug dealer finds himself recruited by federal agents Kodak and Eastman to go undercover in Miami. There, Deacon will pose as drug kingpin Xavier Coyne and infiltrate a murderous Colombian cartel. The agents’ target is a drug lord named Chalfont, and Deacon and his partner, Claudia Safire, risk their lives to capture him. Meanwhile, Hannah struggles with her father’s constant criticism of her hair, clothing, and acne. Her mother is addicted to pills and alcohol after losing a baby named Michael. Sadly, the family’s collective pain trickles down to Kerry, Hannah’s younger sister who absorbs emotional stress while zoning out in front of the TV. Though Hannah still loves Deacon, she begins dating classmate Peter to alleviate life’s hurt. During a tumultuous summer, she’ll make an unlikely ally who’s willing to help investigate the clues that Deacon lives. In her novel, Cumiskey (I Like You Like This, 2017) crafts not only an excellent portrait of teen life in the mid-’80s, but also a fun homage to cultural touchstones like Miami Vice. While undercover, Deacon sports flamboyant sport coats and bottle-blond hair. Hannah, who soldiers on in a painful search for emotional clarity, reaches out to school mean girls like Gillian, who’s gay and lives miserably in the closet. But the author’s outsider protagonist keeps readers engaged by never joining a clique in which each girl works “harder than the next to stay in the pack and avoid expulsion.” The narrative flow is superb because characters frequently take bold action, and the fallout feeds back into Hannah’s and Deacon’s development. Overall, readers never endure scenes that are too saccharine or grisly, which adds a vibrant glow to the writing.

A teen tale that avoids easy answers while gliding to a confident landing.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-616-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2019

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.


In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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A three-time Newbery Honor winner tells—in a memoir that is even more immediate and compelling than his novels—about his intimate relationship with Minnesota's north woods and the dog team he trained for Alaska's Iditarod.

Beginning with a violent natural incident (a doe killed by wolves) that spurred his own conversion from hunter and trapper to observing habitant of the forest, Paulsen draws a vivid picture of his wilderness life—where bears routinely help themselves to his dog's food and where his fiercely protective bantam adopts a nestful of quail chicks and then terrorizes the household for an entire summer. The incidents he recounts are marvelous. Built of concrete detail, often with a subtext of irony or mystery, they unite in a modest but telling self-portrait of a man who has learned by opening himself to nature—not to idyllic, sentimental nature, but to the harsh, bloody, life-giving real thing. Like nature, the dogs are uncontrollable: independent, wildly individual, yet loyal and dedicated to their task. It takes extraordinary flexibility, courage, and generosity to accept their difficult strengths and make them a team: Paulsen sees humor in their mischief and has learned (almost at the cost of his life) that rigid discipline is irrelevant, even dangerous. This wonderful book concludes with a mesmerizing, day-by-day account of Paulsen's first Iditarod—a thrilling, dangerous journey he was so reluctant to end that he almost turned back within sight of his goal. lt's almost as hard to come to the end of his journal.

This may be Paulsen's best book yet: it should delight and enthrall almost any reader.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0-02-770221-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1990

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