Strong characters resist but can’t overcome a frustratingly unrealistic plot. (Fiction. 14 & up)

THE VOW

Two privileged Kentucky teens concoct a sham marriage to prevent one’s deportation, generating fallout neither is prepared to cope with.

Mo (short for Mohammed), 17, and Annie, 18, have been platonic best friends since she rescued the newly arrived immigrant from ridicule in fifth grade, and in turn, he coaxed Annie, socially immobilized by her sister’s death, back into the world. Mo’s summer plans include basketball camp and eventually Harvard or Yale, Annie’s, a summer job her sister once held, then art school. Both are devastated when Mo’s father is laid off and must take his family back to Jordan. Annie talks Mo into marriage though they’re warned of potentially grim legal consequences. Narrating alternating chapters, Mo and Annie are rounded, believable and sympathetic; yet to serve the plot, they must behave in ways that make little sense. Both are careful and observant, unlikely to jump off a bridge without at least looking over the edge first. An odd narrative tension results, as if the characters would much rather do something else. Looming over the story is the urgent, hot-button issue of U.S. teens raised with American identities but lacking legal status. For Mo, deportation means returning to his wealthy family in Jordan and applying for a student visa for an Ivy League education—lowering the stakes from potentially devastating to merely inconvenient.

Strong characters resist but can’t overcome a frustratingly unrealistic plot. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5864-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

The lives of two girls named Hannah, living in different centuries on different continents, intersect.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Dory is an English peasant living a harsh existence in 1347. Hannah Doe is a resident of Belman Psychiatric Hospital in 2023 New York City, brought in after being found on the street experiencing hallucinations and screaming something about a castle. Modern-day Hannah periodically enters a catatonic state, something the staff refer to as her “going to the castle.” Columbia psychology student Jordan Hassan is a new intern at Belman, and his interest is piqued by this girl no one knows much about. He decides to play detective and try to discover her history himself. Meanwhile, in the medieval England storyline, Hannah Dory tries to save her village from starvation by sneaking into the baron’s castle but finds herself swept up in a fight between the new baron and his rival. The book sustains a breakneck pace with short chapters and many cliffhangers that will keep readers’ interest. Patterson’s author’s note includes a list of mental health resources and describes his experience of working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. The narrative thoughtfully centers mental illness and touches on complex topics like suicide. Whiteness is the default; Jordan is cued as Muslim.

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-41172-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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GIRL IN PIECES

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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