A lukewarm work of realism layered with elements of fantasy and mystery.



Once upon a time, there was a girl named Tess who could see the future.

She was very good at pretending she was like everyone else. But one day, the facade crumbled, and everyone stopped talking to her. Her only friend was Tabitha, the most unpopular girl in school. Five years later, life still sucks, but it’s bearable. Tess has Tabitha, their regular viewings of Sixteen Candles, and her spot on the track team. But when frizzy-haired, chubby Tabitha returns from summer vacation with a shiny mane, a thinner body, and previously unattainable popularity, it’s suddenly as though they were never friends. When Tabitha dies, Tess feels intense guilt and shame for not warning her former friend that she dreamed of her coming end, and Tess finds herself at the center of the mystery surrounding Tabitha’s death. A subplot dealing with Tess’ mother’s severe mental illness collides with the primary plot in a satisfying but slightly sappy conclusion. Unfortunately, Tess makes repeated, unchallenged references to her “crazy” mother, undercutting the book’s treatment of the condition. The book is titled after the Thompson Twins’ tune from the end credits of Sixteen Candles, and like most of John Hughes’ films, it seems Yabroff’s novel is mostly devoid of people of color, Tess’ Turkish heritage (the source of her gift) generations distant.

A lukewarm work of realism layered with elements of fantasy and mystery. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5072-0002-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Merit Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.


Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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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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