A quiet tale of a young man learning to speak his truth.

UNDER THE RADAR

A restrained rural coming-of-age and coming-out story.

Clark’s novel positions Alberta high school senior, wrestler, and farm kid Gunnar as determined to keep his gay identity private until he graduates. The story balances Gunnar’s self-awareness with concerns over what and who he has to lose, worried as he is that he has nothing in common with the out-and-proud crowd. Armed with a wardrobe update, things change when Gunnar protects an openly gay friend and assumptions about his sexuality swarm. His actions get him barred from sports and kicked out of P.E. Gunnar suspects homophobia is to blame, but he adapts to his new school cooking classes, takes a job with local gay farmers, and focuses on broadening his horizons and being himself. When Gunnar comes out to a friend, he faces some social ostracism but also benefits from gay role models, savvy teachers, and a supportive family. The slow pacing of this rural drama borders on flat, but Gunnar’s brooding inner narrative dovetails nicely with descriptions of the landscape and horseback riding. Unlike Gunnar’s cooking skills, nothing quite reaches a boil, but what the story lacks in tension is made up for in nuanced attention to interpersonal dynamics. Gunnar’s family members are Canadians of Icelandic descent, and most characters are white.

A quiet tale of a young man learning to speak his truth. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77086-566-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: DCB

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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