An imperfect offering from a nearly perfect author.

PERFECT ESCAPE

For 17-year-old Kendra, life has been defined by her older brother’s OCD, causing her to strive for perfection in all things.

When Grayson is released from his latest treatment center, she worries that her brother’s presence will disrupt the family’s tranquility. But this time it’s Kendra’s secret extracurricular activities that threaten the facade of perfection—she is caught buying test answers and reselling them. Rather than face consequences, she hijacks Grayson for an impromptu road trip to see California’s Hayward Fault (one of his leading obsessions) while hoping to reconnect with her past best friend, Zoe. Compared to Brown’s previous work—on school shootings and abusive relationships (Hate List, 2010; Bitter End, 2011)—this story seems almost fluffy. While lies and family stress should fuel narrative tension, the flat emotions and unsympathetic characters can't capitalize on it. Sibling fighting simply can’t achieve the level of raw emotion that Brown has communicated in the past. Kendra’s pursuit of perfection isn’t anything new, and the correlation of perfection with obsession never solidifies. Grayson doesn't emerge as a character beyond his disorder, so his meltdowns and compulsions become plot-device annoyances rather than emotional turmoil.

An imperfect offering from a nearly perfect author.   (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-18557-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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