Coming-of-age never looked so beautiful.

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PRETTY

The only time 13-year-old Sophie can relax is when her alcoholic mother, Janet, finally falls into bed asleep.

Sometimes Janet is happy, dancing and singing through the apartment. Other times she is angry and violent. After a particularly bad episode, Sophie returns from school to find Janet, a freelance fashion journalist, packing for an extended trip to Paris. Auntie Amara, with her dreadlocks and music, comes to stay in their quiet Brooklyn home. At first, Sophie feels suffocated by the attention. But trips to her aunt’s church, a session at a local beauty salon, and long talks over steaming bowls of spicy stew encourage Sophie to relax. With her mother gone, Sophie has the space to consider who she wants to be. A light-skinned black girl with a French father and her mother’s sense of fashion, Sophie is pretty. But a school project makes her consider the real meaning of beauty, and it is nothing like what she finds in Janet’s fashion magazines. As he did in Husky (2015), Sayre once again proves that he understands the complexity of growing up. His confident story tackles race, sexuality, wealth, beauty, and faith as he revisits the characters and Brooklyn location of his first novel. This will encourage readers to press in to the difficult questions and look for the truth beneath.

Coming-of-age never looked so beautiful. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-448-48417-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced.

THE ALWAYS WAR

For the past 75 years, Tessa’s nation has been at war—a war that has no end in sight.

Tessa lives in a community of weary people, visibly crushed by endless years of combat. They are numb; war is commonplace. But when a local boy receives an award for bravery—the nation’s highest—it lifts the city. Everyone, especially Tessa, desperately needs a hero. But Gideon shocks the town by refusing the honor. He declares himself a coward and runs away. He has killed more than 1,000 people; there is no honor in that. But that’s what war is, isn’t it? Killing the enemy is necessary. Gideon infuriates Tessa, but she is inexplicably curious as well. She follows him and ends up on a plane, with Gideon steering it straight toward the enemy line. He hopes to apologize, to atone for his mistakes, but what he and Tessa (along with a stowaway orphan named Dek) find when they open the plane’s door changes the plan dramatically. This dystopian drama examines the human aspect of war, and also how technology may redefine war in the future. In line with that tension, it is difficult to pinpoint which character grows the most in the narrative—Tessa or the computer.

If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced. (Dystopia. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9526-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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