This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A standing ovation.

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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