Bun O’Keefe will settle comfortably at home in readers’ hearts.

THE AGONY OF BUN O'KEEFE

In 1986, a Newfoundland teen learns that family isn’t always the one you’re born into—sometimes it’s the one that takes you in.

Bun O’Keefe has grown up isolated in a run-down house with her mother, a 300-pound hoarder, who has deprived Bun of love, care, conversation, and education. When Bun’s mother tells her to get out, the literal-minded 14-year-old white girl goes to St. John’s, where she meets a close-knit group of disillusioned young adults. There’s Busker Boy, a Sheshatshiu Innu street performer; Big Eyes, a lapsed Catholic, white good girl who can’t bring herself to swear; Chef, a talented, white culinary student; and Cher/Chris, a white drag queen. The found family of four takes Bun in, feeds and clothes her, and teaches her what it means to be loved and supported. Although Bun is 14, she possesses the endearing naiveté and honesty of a child, but her first-person narration isn’t sappy or immature. She’s self-taught, courtesy of the many books and video tapes her mother has brought home, and her point of reference for the world is the 1978 documentary The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan, about an alcoholic on the streets of Montreal. Smith’s talent lies in deftly handling numerous heavy topics: suicide, sexual abuse, neglect, AIDS, homophobia, transphobia, and racism, without making them feel forced or gratuitous—they’re facts of life.

Bun O’Keefe will settle comfortably at home in readers’ hearts. (Historical fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-319865-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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Several yards short of a touchdown.

STAY GOLD

A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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