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A sensitive, true-to-life narrative that is respectfully and indelibly portrayed.

This coming-of-age novel in verse depicts one boy’s harrowing experiences with his eating disorder in the late 1990s.

Jake Stacey loves rollerblading, Emily Dickinson, Broadway shows, and his grandmother, but he’s not well. Jake has been starving himself since seventh grade—and concerned adults in his life have caught on. They admit Jake against his will to an inpatient program, where he’s treated for anorexia nervosa, depression, and OCD. Jake’s striking first-person voice and the ups and downs of his emotional journey toward healing are centered through a variety of poetic forms and styles, as well as journal entries and confessions Jake makes to an angel statue at a park. Jake experiences grief, gets a feeding tube, confronts horrifying memories of bullying, learns to talk back to “the Voice” of his disorder, befriends another patient, and embraces known and emerging parts of himself without over-explanation or exoticization. The emphasis on internal contradictions and the carefully rendered ending, hinting at hope without promising certainty of recovery, are especially honest and notable. Secondary characters are less well developed, and the middle of the book drags at times. A note from the author, who is white, reveals that Jake’s story is inspired by his own. While Jake, who turns 14 while in treatment, reflects on his emotionally intense tween experiences, his goal setting is relevant to older teens and includes milestones like getting a driver’s license and attending college.

A sensitive, true-to-life narrative that is respectfully and indelibly portrayed. (resources) (Verse fiction. 11-18)

Pub Date: March 19, 2024

ISBN: 9781536229097

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss.

It’s 1983, and 13-year-old Indian American Reha feels caught between two worlds.

Monday through Friday, she goes to a school where she stands out for not being White but where she has a weekday best friend, Rachel, and does English projects with potential crush Pete. On the weekends, she’s with her other best friend, Sunita (Sunny for short), at gatherings hosted by her Indian community. Reha feels frustrated that her parents refuse to acknowledge her Americanness and insist on raising her with Indian values and habits. Then, on the night of the middle school dance, her mother is admitted to the hospital, and Reha’s world is split in two again: this time, between hospital and home. Suddenly she must learn not just how to be both Indian and American, but also how to live with her mother’s leukemia diagnosis. The sections dealing with Reha’s immigrant identity rely on oft-told themes about the overprotectiveness of immigrant parents and lack the nuance found in later pages. Reha’s story of her evolving relationships with her parents, however, feels layered and real, and the scenes in which Reha must grapple with the possible loss of a parent are beautifully and sensitively rendered. The sophistication of the text makes it a valuable and thought-provoking read even for those older than the protagonist.

An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss. (Verse novel. 11-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304742-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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