An intimate story of growth and self-respect.


A high school junior reevaluates her future after her absentee mother returns.

It’s been almost 6 years since 17-year-old Bliss Walker’s mother left her with relatives in Illinois for a modeling job in Japan. Since then, Bliss has tried to make the most of her life with her Aunt Trish, Uncle Leo, and 18-year-old cousin, Patsy, but she nevertheless feels like an interloper. Hotheaded boyfriend River promises to bring Bliss along when he leaves behind rural, mostly White Lakeville with its endless fields of corn and beans. Then Mama unexpectedly returns with promises of teaming up as a mother-daughter modeling duo in Eastern Europe. To add more confusion, in comes Blake, a biracial (Chinese and assumed White) Chicago transplant whose family runs an organic farm where Bliss and Patsy have summer jobs. There’s something that keeps pulling Bliss toward Blake, perhaps because he’s the only one who asks her, “What makes you happy?” Wilson unravels how much Bliss’ life revolves around prioritizing other people. Bliss downplays her needs and wants in ways that to her feel reasonable; her empathy and loyalty turn into making excuses for others. The book explores complicated, messy relationships that include elements of rivalry, jealousy, love, and care as well as questions of consent and sexual intimacy. After years of undervaluing herself, it takes some deeply intense moments for Bliss to begin to see how dysfunctional and unbalanced her relationships are.

An intimate story of growth and self-respect. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304465-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.


A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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