A realistic, worthwhile look at dating violence and unhealthy relationships.

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BAD ROMANCE

Grace, a high school junior, is the last one to see that the boy she fell in love with is no good for her.

A year into a relationship that started with her infatuation with Gavin, a senior who survived a suicide attempt, Grace wants desperately to get away from his increasingly controlling, jealous behavior. In a first-person narrative addressed to Gavin, Grace tries to work out how she got in over her head. Beginning with a melodramatic stream of consciousness, the novel turns into a well-crafted depiction of the processes that can lead an immature girl without the support of emotionally balanced adults into trouble. Grace’s mother plays the role of Contrite and Subservient Female to Grace’s stepfather, whom Grace calls The Giant. Despite warnings from her sister and close circle of friends, Grace can’t see that she’s heading the same way. Even when she recognizes that Gavin’s manipulating her, she’s taken in by his professed love for her, saying “it’s addictive, being someone’s everything. Letting them be yours. You’re the only drug I take.” She goes along with his rules about contact with other people and allows him to coerce her into sex, all the while feeling responsible for his emotional well-being. Grace’s ethnicity and looks are left vague, perhaps to underline the universality of emotional abuse, but the absence of markers to the contrary reinforces the white default.

A realistic, worthwhile look at dating violence and unhealthy relationships. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-772-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT

Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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