COLOR OF ABSENCE

TWELVE STORIES ABOUT LOSS AND HOPE

Some of today’s most celebrated YA authors, including Avi, Walter Dean Myers, Jacqueline Woodson (writing with Chris Lynch), Annette Curtis Klause, Norma Fox Mazer, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Howe himself, are represented in this generally fine though uneven anthology. Loss appears in various guises here, including deaths of parents, a grandparent, pets; loss of a career and friends; disappearance of a beloved sibling; the theft of a worthy-of-first-prize bicycle; and the possible end of a marriage. What all these stories share in common is their hopeful, life-affirming message that even painful losses help one to accept, change, and grow. Most memorable is Klause’s “Summer of Love.” Set in San Francisco in the summer of 1967, the story revisits Simon, vampire “hero” of this author’s acclaimed novel The Silver Kiss (1991), and imagines him as the owner, for a short time, of a cat. Imagine his—and readers’—astonishment when he discovers his capacity to love and to experience crushing pain upon the animal’s death. Most quirky but as moving is Wolff’s “Chair: A Story for Voices,” in which the slow deterioration of an old man’s mind is achingly played out in a spare dialogue in three “acts” between Grandpa and Buddy, his devoted grandson. Surprisingly out of kilter, though, is Myers’s slow-moving contribution about an adult baseball player’s decision to quit the game and work through his marital problems. Teen readers will be less likely to relate to this one than to any of the others. Overall, this anthology should make readers think, feel, and nod in recognition. Here’s good news for teachers, too: the stories serve as fine springboards for introspective student-writing and classroom discussion. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-82862-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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