A thriller that takes on enduring questions of loyalty, vengeance, justice, and equity.

THE BALLAD OF DINAH CALDWELL

In the late-21st-century Ozarks, a teen seeks revenge against the man who destroyed her family.

Seventeen-year-old Dinah lives a hardscrabble life with her mother and asthmatic younger brother, Warren. Their only saving grace is their well: As drought has ravaged the land, this precious resource allows them to barter with neighbors for food. But Gabriel Gates, a violent, corrupt landowner, won't rest until he has dominion over Charlotte County; his latest show of intimidation leaves Dinah’s mother dead, and, tragically, Warren dies too as he and Dinah run for their lives. Bent on making Gates suffer, Dinah hunkers down with Johnny, a boy who is also on Gates’ wanted list, in the caves he has converted into a home and moonshine distillery. The two scheme to take Gates down and reform local society with the help of others living on the fringes, but Gates is deeply embedded in county politics, law enforcement, and business, and it’s hard to know whom to trust. Dinah desperately misses Kara, her best friend and longtime secret crush, and develops (requited) feelings for Johnny. The evocative worldbuilding and action-packed opening will suck readers in, and the monumental challenge Dinah faces will keep them reading even though the characters never feel well-rounded enough to deepen the emotional stakes. Most main characters are White; Kara has Dominican and German ancestry, and there is diversity in ethnicity and sexuality in the supporting cast.

A thriller that takes on enduring questions of loyalty, vengeance, justice, and equity. (Dystopian. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64567-312-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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

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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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