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CALLI

This story about an average girl who rises to some unusual challenges in steady fashion makes for comfortable...

When one of her two moms is diagnosed with lupus and a new foster sister her own age moves in, things become complicated for Calli.

Life in her Louisiana suburb has been pretty straightforward, with boyfriend Dub lighting up the romance and friend Delia a solid support. All of that goes haywire when new foster sibling Cherish makes a play for Dub, Delia finds a new buddy and Calli finds she is unable to turn to either mom for help. Another foster child is anticipated, and the circumstance, while not overwhelming, begins to really eat at her. Attempts to teach Cherish what it feels like to have her stuff co-opted backfire, and Calli learns the hard way that retribution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. On the typical teen-angst scale, this is fairly tepid, though it's serious enough to Calli, whose first-person, present-tense narration wrings emotion at every opportunity. Resolution comes fairly easily, as French homework, weekly family outings at a local buffet and "intervention" shopping trips with Delia and her new pal combine with Calli’s admitting her wrong and making an effort to make things right. 

This story about an average girl who rises to some unusual challenges in steady fashion makes for comfortable middle-of-the-road fare. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-57131-702-5

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

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

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. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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RADIO SILENCE

A smart, timely outing.

Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).

Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class.

A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233571-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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