A sensitive survivor story for reluctant readers.

STRANDED

Six months after his girlfriend’s death, a young man tries to honor her life by making the most of his own.

Fate has not been kind to Kipp. Hardened by a series of unstable and neglectful living situations and wracked with guilt over the death of his girlfriend, he’s determined to make something of himself, working tirelessly to get back on track after a stint in a youth rehabilitation center. Getting fired from his restaurant shift manager job after confronting an Islamophobic customer and losing his apartment in a single day, however, drag him to the pits of despair. An unexpected offer of shelter and employment from Reba, a former volunteer at the youth center, seems almost too good to be true, and Kipp jumps at the chance to redeem himself. But Reba is hiding secrets of her own, and Kipp soon finds himself battling not just for his livelihood, but his very life. The story is complex, with many interconnected parts—Kipp’s childhood, his relationship with his girlfriend, and his spiral into drug addiction and subsequent rehabilitation—although readers may wish for deeper character development. Events of the present day unfold at an engagingly brisk pace, even if the ending wraps up a bit too neatly. Kipp is a plucky and introspective narrator whose struggles will likely resonate with readers who will root for him as he works to right his rapidly crumbling world. Main characters seem to be white; important secondary characters are cued as Chinese Canadian.

A sensitive survivor story for reluctant readers. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2389-1

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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