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An action-filled story full of funny, topical, and sympathetic observations about the world today.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

An eccentric family competes in a reality show in Duret’s debut YA novel.

The Marcus family of Philadelphia—Skunky, Golden Boy, Barkus, Marticus, Nee Nee, and their parents, Airball and Saint Marcus—are selected to compete in a new, national reality show, where they’re woefully overmatched by the hardy, athletic Ponchatrains from New Orleans and the intellectually gifted Perfects from Boston. As the competition takes off and its producer, Buzzemiah Miller, mounts an extensive promotional campaign, readers get to know the Marcuses and their competitors in multilayered ways: through their behind-the-scenes interactions, their performances in various “challenges,” and their glossy, manufactured images, presented to and consumed by the show’s millions of viewers. The vain, attention-seeking Nee Nee, the oldest Marcus daughter, functions as the main protagonist as her family and their TV fans look for substance and redemption in the most unlikely places. A quote on the novel’s back cover compares it to Norton Juster’s 1961 classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and after a somewhat slow start, Duret’s book really does begin to approach the witty, imaginative, and accessible brilliance of that genre-busting work. It isn’t a fantasy—there’s no mystical land, unless Hollywood qualifies as such, and everything seems to follow generally accepted rules of time and space. Nevertheless, the story does have elements of the supremely absurd that are delightfully amusing and fiendishly clever. While staying focused on the action, Duret makes incisive, thought-provoking comments about what we value, as individuals and as a culture, when it comes to family, work, competition, education, and entertainment. His lively, slightly snarky prose is also a perfect fit with the material (“He didn’t seem as much to have a tan as to be entitled to one”). Overall, this book will appeal to fans of all YA genres—and their parents as well.

An action-filled story full of funny, topical, and sympathetic observations about the world today.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1938101793

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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