Readers looking for an undemanding beach read may find a few hours’ pleasure here.

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OUR SONG

Having been revived after her heart stopped beating for three minutes, Olive is given a second chance at life and love.

Olive tries hard to convince herself and others that she didn’t drive into that tree on purpose. Even though she was devastated by her breakup with her boyfriend Derek. Even though she was speeding and she didn’t slow down at the curve in the road. Alive but not well, 18-year-old Olive returns to school. Now, however, Derek has a new girlfriend, Olive’s grades are slipping, and she’s got this inexplicable song continually swirling about in her head. At a gathering of near-death enthusiasts, Olive meets Nick, a mercurial young man with an English accent. He makes her feel valued and beautiful, but there’s something he’s not revealing. There’s a slim mystery threaded throughout, but this story has all the elements of a formulaic romance: Jerk boyfriend breaks girl’s heart, girl meets new guy, ex comes begging back, girl has misunderstanding with new guy, true love prevails. Olive is wishy-washy, obsessive and has no real sense of self. Eventually, she begins to clear her boy-befuddled brain to better understand her family and create some goals for herself. Irritatingly, the song’s mystical origins come as a stunningly anticlimactic nonrevelation.

Readers looking for an undemanding beach read may find a few hours’ pleasure here. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59514-268-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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