Restraint would have been the better part of valor here.

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THE EDUMACATION OF JAY BAKER

A sardonic teen must balance life, love and irritable bowel syndrome in this strained middle-class comedy of manners.

Jay Baker’s life is a mess. His parents are separating, his mom is shacking up with his crush object’s dad and he’s running for freshman-class president against football Neanderthal Mike Hibbard, who’s been bullying him for the past two years. He’s also torn between two girls: the aforementioned crush—and best friend—Cameo and hot, new tennis whiz Caroline. To top it all off, Jay’s IBS does nothing to help his game either on or off the court. Clark’s dialogue-heavy prose is littered with Jay’s sarcastic zingers, often to the point of distraction, like this tortured bon mot: “Ah, there he was: my born-again inner snarkster delivering that little fetus to their doorstep. It’s a boy!” Between the soapy story line, constantly acerbic commentary and clumsily doctored pop-song titles that introduce each chapter, the whole effect is too, too much. In addition, references to current celebrities like Katy Perry and Jessica Alba ensure a short shelf life. For more authentically humorous male teen voices that aren’t trying so hard, look to Don Calame’s Swim the Fly (2009) or Susan Juby’s Getting the Girl (2008).

Restraint would have been the better part of valor here. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9256-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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 unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT

Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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