Short attention spans need not apply, but committed, careful readers will be richly rewarded.

THE MURDERER'S APE

When her friend and partner, the sailor Henry Koskela, is wrongfully imprisoned for murder, Sally Jones works for years to free him.

The ape Sally Jones, who can understand speech, respond with nods, write slowly, and play chess, tells her tale by typing on an old Underwood typewriter. It’s the tale of the murder of Alphonse Morro, but it’s far from simple. When Koskela goes to prison for killing Morro (whose body’s not found) after Morro lied to Koskela about the cargo he and Sally Jones were to transport (guns—not roofing tiles), Sally Jones eventually finds a safe place to stay with singer Ana Molina and her musical-instrument–repairing landlord, Luigi Fidardo. Thus begins a continent-spanning quest filled with betrayal and intrigue and engineering and music. Set in the very early years of the 20th century, Wegelius’ award-winning novel won Sweden’s August Prize for best novel for youth, as did his first book about Sally Jones, not yet published in the United States, and features a complex mystery, an intricately constructed narrative, and deep characters. It has enough adventures for a trilogy at least, but the pacing is slower than modern American adventure novels. Sally Jones is a compelling narrator, and the detailed illustrations by the author add much (and depict a largely white human cast).

Short attention spans need not apply, but committed, careful readers will be richly rewarded. (Mystery. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93175-2

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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