Though not perfect, moving and of interest to teens experiencing similar stresses.

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FOUR WEEKS, FIVE PEOPLE

Five teens work on their mental health during four weeks at a wilderness-therapy camp.

Each teen speaks in this novel, revealing his or her individual issues: Stella has anger-management problems and depression; Clarisa has OCD; Andrew suffers from an eating disorder; Mason is a narcissist; and Ben is dissociative—his part of the narration is formatted as a movie script. At Camp Ugunduzi, a pricey therapy camp, the five teens (evidently white save for Asian Clarisa) will hike, meditate, and engage in group and solo talk therapy. While friendships form and romance blossoms among the campers as they create a Safe Space cabin, they’re also working toward progress and dealing with setbacks. Andrew loses it when he gains weight. Clarisa and Ben’s romance hits the rocks. Clarisa and Stella fight when Stella deals her some hard truths. Yet when tragedy (undescribed in the text) occurs, the group draws together to support each other, revealing just how far they’ve come. First-time novelist Yu does a good job of presenting the therapy process, capturing the words therapists use and realistically describing the uncertain arc of recovery. But choosing to stage the tragedy off-page mutes its impact, and the plethora of voices makes it hard to connect with all the characters.

Though not perfect, moving and of interest to teens experiencing similar stresses. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-373-21230-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Seventeen Fiction/Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Overall, a solid debut.

THE HEARTBEATS OF WING JONES

In 1995 Atlanta, a mixed-race girl finds a way to stand out on her own terms.

Wing and her brother, Marcus, attract attention because they're half Chinese, half black. While Marcus is a football hero, Wing suffers bullying from a mean girl and secretly pines for Aaron, Marcus' best friend, a black boy. Everything changes when Marcus, while driving drunk, kills two people and falls into a coma. Wing feels completely alone; neither her mother nor her grandmothers, LaoLao and Granny Dee, seem to know what to do. So Wing starts running in secret, prodded by her imaginary dragon and lioness, which she has not seen since her father died. She feels free when she runs, as though she can outrun all her mixed emotions. When Aaron finds out, he encourages Wing, and they grow closer even as the situation at home worsens. A running sponsorship could save her family—but in trying to chase that sponsorship, will Wing lose the one thing that makes her feel free? The choice of time period feels unjustified—this story could have been equally true in 2016—and the device of the dragon and lioness feels forced. Nevertheless, Wing's sense of isolation is well-captured, and her grief and confusion are raw and moving.

Overall, a solid debut. (Historical fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55502-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An ambitious failure.

LAST NIGHT AT THE CIRCLE CINEMA

Three best friends spend the night before graduation in a run-down movie house.

Bertucci, Olivia, and Codman have been best friends all through high school, and on the eve of their graduation, the trio agrees to spend their final hours as high school students locked in the recently boarded-up Circle Cinema. In these few hours, truths are revealed, hearts are torn open, and futures are decided upon. These ambitions ultimately sink the novel. The enterprise is burdened with overthought dialogue, clumsy metaphors, and what comes across as a desperate desire to be seen as adult. The novel switches narrative perspective from teen to teen at the beginning of every chapter, but the device is unsuccessful: these characters all sound and think the same. These attributes almost make the book work as thematic commentary on the nature of teenage friendship, but unfortunately it doesn’t go much beyond the obvious observation that teens tend to think like their friends and are desperate to escape childhood. Throw in a half-baked love triangle and an apparent attempt to ape John Green and David Levithan's "Schrodinger's cat" metaphor from Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010)—a metaphor that even that book barely pulled off—and you have a book that has all the hallmarks of a smart, sensitive book for teens but without the necessary nuance or emotional excitement.

An ambitious failure. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-7489-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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