As one of the characters describes Nic: beautiful but not perfect.

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500 WORDS OR LESS

A high school senior tries to move past her betrayal of her boyfriend and the disappearance of her mother.

Branded a whore after an alcohol-fueled hookup with her boyfriend’s best friend and desperate to “...for a moment / be someone / other than / that girl,” Nic Chen agrees to write the college essays of classmates at her competitive high school. She understands the power of the spare, stripped-down vignette, and in learning and writing the stories of the valedictorian, the artist, the quarterback, and the mean girl, Nic starts to find her own story too. There’s a lot going on here, and the boyfriend comes and goes in such fleeting moments that it’s hard to empathize with Nic’s stated sense of loss. Debut author del Rosario only begins to unpack the complexity of Nic’s relationships with her runaway white mother and her emotionally distant Chinese father and her identity as their biracial daughter in a largely wealthy, largely white Seattle-area community. Add in an extensive cast of classmates and a few loyal friends whose stories aren’t told, and the impact of the whole is perhaps less than the sum of its parts. Still, the author, like Nic, knows the weight of “emotionally raw” experiences, and, in poignant verse, the moments of anguish, loneliness, and hope ring true.

As one of the characters describes Nic: beautiful but not perfect. (Novel in verse. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1044-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

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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A standing ovation.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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