The beautiful black-on-blue cut-paper–designed cover is perhaps the most attractive thing about it.

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CROW GIRL

From a press that specializes in middle-grade–and-above–interest–level books written at a low reading level, a story both simple and simplistic about a teen finding herself.

Lily is tormented by the mean girls at school, but the principal chooses not to do anything, ascribing it to Lily’s sensitivity. Lily’s mom, with 10-year-old boy twins, wants to believe all is OK, but Lily is obsessed with hiding herself, particularly her breasts and belly, feeling that she is fat and unattractive. Coming home from school through the woods, she discovers a crow looking at her fiercely, and she begins to bring scraps to the crows that then come at her call. She stops eating sweets after school so she can get to the crows, who make her feel scared and powerful at once. Her grandmother teaches her to stand properly and buys her bras that fit, so subtly, Lily’s appearance is transformed. She attends a Halloween party dressed as a crow, effectively scaring some people and wowing some others, and gets back at the clique in a not-very-nice but satisfying way. Everything happens in lightly sketched outline, and it is all telling, not showing. Perhaps because it is all meant to be empowering and full of good advice, with a generous dash of crow magic, there is very little character development.

The beautiful black-on-blue cut-paper–designed cover is perhaps the most attractive thing about it. (Fiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-78112-122-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Stoke Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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