Despite the clever characterizations, the title says it all.

MY BEAUTIFUL FAILURE

This account of a teen suicide-hotline volunteer is brimming with wry humor and whimsical charm, but as somber events unfold, that light tone feels uncomfortably inappropriate, as if it belongs to some other novel.

Last seen in The Opposite of Music (2007), the Morrison family has weathered father Bill’s mental breakdown. He’s painting again, confident he’s recovered, but Billy, 16, has doubts; he’s determined to prevent a repeat. Having immersed himself in psychology texts, Billy follows a friend’s suggestion to volunteer with the Listeners suicide hotline. Disappointingly, most callers prove merely lonely, bored, eccentric or sexually deviant. Then Jenney calls. Depressed, she’s dropped out of college; her therapist, Melinda, is guiding her to recover memories of parental abuse (readers will wonder if Melinda herself manufactured these). Jenney’s praise leads Billy to fantasize their future relationship and share his parental worries with her. Jenney herself never comes into focus; Billy’s character drives the story. He’s a case study in teen-psyche contradictions—self-centered and altruistic, grandiose and helpless—above all, agonizingly self-conscious. The Morrisons are vivid creations, though these sly, observant portraits may resonate better with adults than teens. Short chapters with enigmatic titles and abrupt, nonlinear shifts in storytelling combine to suggest a graphic novel missing its art. Young’s a talented original yet to find her niche.

Despite the clever characterizations, the title says it all. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5489-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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