Here’s a narrative experience readers won’t soon forget.

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN

Twins Noah and Jude used to be NoahandJude—inseparable till betrayal and tragedy ripped them apart.

Nelson tells her tale of grief and healing in separate storylines, one that takes place before their art-historian mother’s fatal car accident and one that takes place after, allowing readers and twins to slowly understand all that’s happened. An immensely talented painter, Noah is 13 1/2 in his thread, when Brian moves in next door to their coastal Northern California home. His intense attraction to Brian is first love at its most consuming. Jude is 16 in hers, observing a “boy boycott” since their mother’s death two years earlier; she is also a sculpture student at the California School of the Arts—which, inexplicably, Noah did not get into. Haunted by both her mother and her grandmother, she turns to an eccentric sculptor for mentoring and meets his protégé, a dangerously charismatic British college student. The novel is structurally brilliant, moving back and forth across timelines to reveal each teen’s respective exhilaration and anguish but holding the ultimate revelations back until just the right time. Similarly, Nelson’s prose scintillates: Noah’s narration is dizzyingly visual, conjuring the surreal images that make up his “invisible museum”; Jude’s is visceral, conveying her emotions with startling physicality. So successful are these elements that the overdetermined, even trite conclusion will probably strike readers as a minor bump in the road.

Here’s a narrative experience readers won’t soon forget. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3496-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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