A charming and edifying work with a romance that will make YA fans swoon.

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MUSICAL YOUTH

Two very different teenagers with a shared gift for music fall in love over a summer in this YA novel by Antiguan and Barbudan author Hillhouse.

In Antigua, painfully shy Zahara can play guitar and has an encyclopedic knowledge of famous musicians, but she just can’t work up the courage to perform in front of people—and her strict grandmother likely wouldn’t allow it, anyway. Then she meets a cute, confident boy who calls himself Shaka; he’s not only her match in musical knowledge, he also writes his own rap verses with a schoolboy hip-hop crew. Shaka finds himself smitten by Zahara and tries to bring the anxious girl out of her shell. However, he has his own doubts and insecurities underneath his showman persona. Unlike the private-schooled, light-complexioned Zahara, public-schooled Shaka comes from the poor part of town and has been ridiculed all his life for his dark skin. As summer starts, the two teens grow closer, and a tender romance begins to blossom. Soon, Zahara and Shaka are caught in a whirlwind of creative collaboration, self-discovery, and family revelations that will leave them forever changed. In the tradition of the best YA stories, Hillhouse’s characters are convincing because they’re unfailingly realistic in their interactions, interests, and struggles. Her players sound like actual people, and specifically like Antiguan teens. Through their personal journeys, readers learn about issues that affect young people in Antigua and across the globe, including internalized racism, colorism, economic inequality, generational trauma, and old-fashioned teenage angst. This is not to say that the book is heavy or maudlin in tone; on the contrary, Hillhouse’s writing is overwhelmingly joyful and explicitly invested in the power of Black joy, Black excellence, and Black self-love.

A charming and edifying work with a romance that will make YA fans swoon.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73382-996-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Caribbean Reads Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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