Despite the compelling premise, this latest book from Guest falls short of its potential.

FIRE FIGHT

From the PathFinders series

Kai Hunter will not go to foster care. When her grandmother dies and leaves her all alone, she runs away from the Stoney Reserve near Calgary, Alberta, to make a new life for herself.

The brevity of this book hurts it. Part Navajo, part Stoney Nakoda, all attitude, Kai sheds her old life so quickly, even leaving on her vintage motorcycle before her grandmother’s funeral, that readers have little time to get to know her. When Kai reaches Banff, Alberta, her problems are conveniently solved without any effort on her part. After “scoring a job in the first fifteen minutes of arriving in town,” Kai then falls in love. Other than a lingering fear of being caught by the police and Stoney Nakoda Social Services, and an occasional thought to her dead grandmother, Kai enjoys life under her assumed name without any plans to secure her future. When not working, 16-year-old Kai learns about putting out forest fires with her boss’s husband and goes to raucous parties with her boyfriend. Such topics as drug use, sexual assault, and bigotry are mentioned but never developed with the sensitivity they deserve. So many implausible circumstances coalesce to lead to the titular firefight that the book’s climax is unimpressive. The book is for an audience of reluctant readers, accordingly sacrificing depth for pace, but as Mette Bach’s Femme and Brent R. Sherrard’s Fighting Back (both 2015) demonstrate, characterization and nuance can be accomplished successfully within the format.

Despite the compelling premise, this latest book from Guest falls short of its potential. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-939053-11-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: 7th Generation

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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