VERONA COMICS

It’s the night of FabCon prom.

With her fabulous best friend, Jayla, by her side, 16-year-old Jubilee tries her best to let go and give in to new experiences, per some encouragement from basically every adult in her life. Of course, that proves difficult thanks to her upcoming big audition for a summer program at the Carnegie Conservatory, where her young career as a cellist might blossom further. For 17-year-old anxiety-ridden Ridley, the annual comic convention means more torturous time as a brand ambassador for The Geekery, his emotionally abusive father’s infamous comic store chain known for putting indie shops out of business. Fate intervenes when the two teens meet, and an awkwardly endearing first night together leads to something more complicated. Soon Ridley’s forced into spying on Jubilee’s comic artist stepmom by his father, who wants to buy out his enemy’s shop. Ridley is faced with a moral dilemma: Should he tell Jubilee the truth, and will their love for each other withstand their parents’ mutual hatred? The story alternates between each teen’s endearing narration. Dugan (Hot Dog Girl, 2019, etc.) infuses her characters with a warm sense of depth and compassion, particularly the socially self-conscious Ridley, a boy plagued with immense anxiety and frequent suicidal thoughts. Featuring a racially diverse cast of mainly queer characters, including the two white protagonists, this one’s a winning choice.

Breathlessly sweet. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51628-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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