Beautiful and energetic, if jumbled; Smith’s a writer to watch.

WILD AWAKE

A young woman spirals into mania after hearing the truth about her sister’s death in this flawed but heady debut.

While her parents are on a six-week anniversary cruise, 17-year-old piano prodigy Kiri is responsible for watering the azaleas and practicing daily for the upcoming International Young Pianists’ Showcase. But when a stranger calls claiming to have information about her deceased sister, Kiri abandons her disciplined routines and sets out to discover the truth about Sukey, since “[w]hen she died, it was like my house burned down.” After learning Sukey was murdered, not killed in an accident as she had been led to believe, Kiri eschews sleep, takes drugs, goes on midnight bike rides, wins a battle of the bands and falls in love with a formerly paranoid-schizophrenic musician. Each questionable action brings her closer to closure over Sukey’s death, but will she survive the summer? Though the secondary characterizations are sometimes sketchy, and the plot has some holes (would Kiri’s strict parents really leave her alone for six weeks? Is Kiri suffering from delayed grief or true mania?), Smith’s exuberant use of language helps gloss over them. Similes such as “[t]he piano is like a sleek black submarine that carries me deep, deep down, until the surface world is nothing but a muffled shimmer” sing off every page.

Beautiful and energetic, if jumbled; Smith’s a writer to watch. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-218468-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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