A poignant depiction of a boy’s journey to accepting his gay identity despite the odds.

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ZIGGY, STARDUST AND ME

A white, gay teen living in 1973 Missouri begins a life-changing relationship.

Jonathan has asthma, a deadbeat dad, and one friend—biracial (black and white) Starla. He suffers homophobic slurs and physical bullying at school while secretly—and willingly—attending conversion therapy sessions with harmful side effects. Jonathan copes by retreating into his imagination, where he speaks to his idol, Ziggy Stardust (Jonathan feels like “some space oddity who’s landed here on earth”). When Starla leaves for the summer, Jonathan connects with Web, an Oglala Lakota boy from out of town who also endures slurs and violence. When they move beyond friendship to something more, Web helps open Jonathan’s eyes to what his gut has been telling him all along: Being gay isn’t wrong. Readers will be immersed in Jonathan’s close first-person narration, characterized by his own lingo and tendency to escape into his own head. Debut author Brandon deftly incorporates historical events and realities, including the criminalization of homosexuality, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the occupation of Wounded Knee, and police brutality against Native people. Web is a rich character with a backstory of his own, though both he and Starla do all the heavy lifting when it comes to educating Jonathan about contemporary social justice movements that he, focused inward on his traumatic home life and own identity crisis, has remained ignorant of.

A poignant depiction of a boy’s journey to accepting his gay identity despite the odds. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51764-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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 emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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