A teen road trip packed with music and drama. There’s plenty here to both love and hate.

Wes and Corey are haters. They are obsessed with music and even more obsessed with finding the reasons why everything they encounter falls short of greatness.

At jazz camp they meet fellow hater Ash, an intriguing, guitar-playing, older girl. They form a band and then proceed to make a series of dumb decisions that range in severity from bad to awful as they ditch camp to search for the perfect gig. It quickly becomes clear that this tour is a pressure cooker in which everyone’s ugliest traits will appear and start wreaking havoc. The banter among the three is often grating, laden with sexual frustration, dick jokes, and musical one-upmanship. Each of the three is pampered with privilege, yet something is awry. Ash is stupendously rich, the daughter of a Brazilian billionaire and a French model, both absentee. Wes was adopted from Venezuela by white, Buddhist parents who don’t make him the center of their universe. Corey is white and Jewish with overattentive musician parents who sometimes can’t pay all the bills. Though there are some truly hilarious scenes (such as Wes’ biting observations about the awkward ways in which well-meaning white people want to talk about race or his internal, self-scathing dialogue while high), other attempts at humor, such as casual jokes about suicide bombing and rape-y behavior, while believable as adolescent banter, strike the wrong chord.

A teen road trip packed with music and drama. There’s plenty here to both love and hate. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2078-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016


From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019


Several yards short of a touchdown.

A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Close Quickview