Smart and entertaining, as to be expected from Smith.

WINDFALL

When the lottery ticket Alice gives to Teddy, the boy she’s secretly loved for years, wins him a fortune, they discover money really does change everything.

Orphaned at 9, Alice has grown up in Chicago with a loving family: her dad’s brother, Uncle Jake; his Latina wife, Aunt Sofia; and their son, Leo. Uncle Jake—white and fair, like Alice, is a painful reminder of her dad. Struggling to live the life she believes her parents would have chosen, remembering them as passionate altruists, Alice tutors an orphaned foster child and volunteers at a soup kitchen, refusing emphatically when Teddy, who is also white, tries to share his winnings with her. For years, since his gambling-addicted father wiped out their savings, Teddy and his mother have shared a cramped apartment. Generous and impulsive, spending lavishly, Teddy enjoys his new fame. Leo, who feels unjustifiably blessed, having lucked out with great parents (they even made coming out as gay easy), views Teddy’s win as just compensation for a bad-luck childhood, whereas Alice refuses to see good or bad fortune as anything but random. Now, unable to prevent the changes fortune brings, she must learn to weather them. While the feel-good ending feels forced—a shoe that doesn’t quite fit—this compelling read, gracefully told, raises issues seldom explored in popular fiction. How can we rationalize life’s inequalities? What do we owe, and to whom, when blessed with good fortune?

Smart and entertaining, as to be expected from Smith. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55937-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes.

SIX CRIMSON CRANES

From the Six Crimson Cranes series , Vol. 1

Girl meets magic. Hijinks ensue.

Shiori’anma, Princess of Kiata and eldest daughter of Emperor Hanariho, is the intrepid protagonist in this folktale retelling. About to turn 17 and be married off to a third-rank barbarian lord, Shiori desperately looks for ways out of the engagement. Her emerging talents in forbidden magic and a run-in with a young shape-shifting dragon help to pass the time before she is doomed to relocate to the cold North. Things take an even worse turn, however, when she uncovers her stepmother’s secrets. As a consequence, her six brothers are cursed into assuming the form of cranes by day. Shiori is whisked away and coerced into silence, for every word that escapes her lips will mean the death of one of her brothers. She must learn to survive on her own and use her wits and hard-won experience to save both her family and country. Readers here revisit the East Asian–inspired world established in Lim’s The Blood of Stars duology. Despite a few hiccups in the logic of the magic, the author cleverly maintains the basic structure of this well-known European folktale type while weaving in rich elements of Asian mythology, including dragon pearls and the goddess of the moon. The exploration of complicated family dynamics is a particular strength, especially the challenging of the evil stepmother cliché.

Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30091-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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