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

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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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

I AM NOT STARFIRE

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability.

ROSIE LOVES JACK

A teen with Down syndrome runs away to find her boyfriend when her parents forbid their relationship.

Sixteen-year-old Rose Tremayne and her boyfriend, Jack, were made for each other. Jack, who was born with a brain injury, helps Rosie with reading and writing; Rosie calms his anger issues. But after a violent outburst, Jack is sent away—and Rosie’s parents think she should forget him. Rosie resolves to find Jack herself, taking the train to London alone and venturing into the city’s labyrinthine subway system. As she copes with transportation setbacks, she encounters assorted strangers—some kind and some with unsavory intentions. Though secondary characters lack depth, Rosie’s narration sympathetically expresses her determination, frustration, and naïveté in equal measure, and others’ patronizing and rude reactions to her disability are sadly realistic. However, much of the plot feels contrived. Despite Darbon’s efforts to show that Rosie is more than her Down syndrome, she doesn’t escape being a symbol of childlike innocence, a problematic trope. While a twist darkly demonstrates how people with intellectual disabilities can be targets of abuse, its execution is somewhat implausible. Portrayed primarily through Jack’s misspelled postcards and florid prose such as “The sun came out in my head and my heart grew wings and took me up to the moon,” the romance never quite feels three-dimensional; the ending, though touching, is rather pat. Most characters default to White.

An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability. (author's note) (Romance. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68263-289-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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