Although the story drags in places and the resolution feels forced, girls should sympathize with Celia and Drake and root...

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THE SWEET REVENGE OF CELIA DOOR

Revenge may be sweet, but the joys of friendship and following your own star prove even sweeter in this engaging, low-key novel about a creative, rebellious youngster.

Fourteen-year-old Celia Door has taken on the private moniker “Celia the Dark” after being roundly rejected by her classmates at the end of eighth grade. But as luck would have it, new student Drake joins her class, and his friendship gives her a fresh prism through which to see herself. Drake is also the keeper of his own secret, and how these friends support each other as they navigate the social and psychological minefield of ninth grade is the heart of the story. What debut novelist Finneyfrock captures perfectly is the powerlessness of being a teen. The things that distress Celia—her best friend being pulled out of school, a mean-girl campaign to humiliate her, her parents’ separation and her father’s move to far-away Atlanta—affect her very core but are largely out of her control. Illuminated with flashes of humor, Celia’s narration is expressive, and her poems, which are sprinkled throughout the novel, elucidate her emotional state with grace and specificity.

Although the story drags in places and the resolution feels forced, girls should sympathize with Celia and Drake and root for their success. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-01275-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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A cute, feel-good coming-of-age story.

YOU HAVE A MATCH

A DNA test reveals that Abby has a sister she never knew about—and they head off to summer camp together to uncover family secrets.

When 16-year-old Abby’s best friend and secret crush, Leo, asks her to do a mail-in DNA test with him, Abby mostly agrees to give him a little push, as he clearly wants to find out more about his birth family. While the results don’t help Leo, they bring a shocking result for Abby: She has a full-blooded sister, 18-year-old Instagram wellness star Savvy, who lives in another Seattle suburb. After meeting and realizing their respective parents used to be friends, the two girls decide to meet again at summer camp. Unfortunately, camp gets off to a rough start; Savvy is a stickler for rules, Abby didn’t read the rules in the first place, and Leo is a camp chef, which only intensifies Abby’s feelings for him. With a summer full of new friends, hijinks, delicious food, and digging up secrets, Abby has to learn to lean in and own up to the complicated parts of life. This is a heartwarming novel of friendship and family, with a little romance. The story and characters have depth and emotion, touching on topics of broken friendships, losing a loved one, deception, social media, and pursuing what you love. Abby, Savvy, and Leo’s adoptive parents are White; Leo is Filipino.

A cute, feel-good coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23730-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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