Subtle, nuanced, and full of heart

GAME CHANGE

A coming-of-age story about a teen who gets the first—and only—start of his football career when their star quarterback is badly injured a week before a championship game.

Zeb, an exceptionally well-mannered small-town high school senior who lives in a cramped camper, is thrust into the spotlight and a leadership role when the quarterback that Zeb’s backed up all through school, phenom T.T. (one of the only black kids in the primarily white school), is injured a week before the New Hampshire state championship game. An eccentric white teacher who carries a coup stick, both challenging and reinforcing myriad Native stereotypes, challenges Zeb to think about why football’s such a big deal, likening performance in the game to counting coup. The adults in Zeb’s life—his hardworking single mother, his gruff-but-good uncle, his enigmatic-yet-fallible football coach—are complex characters that he sees through new eyes as he figures out the kind of person he will be, on and off the field. Lyrical turns of phrase are balanced by Zeb’s frames of reference, and testicular-related, profane masculine posturing is balanced by heartfelt speeches from the coach. The plot has no direct villains, the slow-boil tension building anticipation with potential obstacles to Zeb’s playing, working its way up to the big game, which plays the themes out beautifully.

Subtle, nuanced, and full of heart . (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-53122-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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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