Overall, a solid debut.

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THE HEARTBEATS OF WING JONES

In 1995 Atlanta, a mixed-race girl finds a way to stand out on her own terms.

Wing and her brother, Marcus, attract attention because they're half Chinese, half black. While Marcus is a football hero, Wing suffers bullying from a mean girl and secretly pines for Aaron, Marcus' best friend, a black boy. Everything changes when Marcus, while driving drunk, kills two people and falls into a coma. Wing feels completely alone; neither her mother nor her grandmothers, LaoLao and Granny Dee, seem to know what to do. So Wing starts running in secret, prodded by her imaginary dragon and lioness, which she has not seen since her father died. She feels free when she runs, as though she can outrun all her mixed emotions. When Aaron finds out, he encourages Wing, and they grow closer even as the situation at home worsens. A running sponsorship could save her family—but in trying to chase that sponsorship, will Wing lose the one thing that makes her feel free? The choice of time period feels unjustified—this story could have been equally true in 2016—and the device of the dragon and lioness feels forced. Nevertheless, Wing's sense of isolation is well-captured, and her grief and confusion are raw and moving.

Overall, a solid debut. (Historical fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55502-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An ambitious failure.

LAST NIGHT AT THE CIRCLE CINEMA

Three best friends spend the night before graduation in a run-down movie house.

Bertucci, Olivia, and Codman have been best friends all through high school, and on the eve of their graduation, the trio agrees to spend their final hours as high school students locked in the recently boarded-up Circle Cinema. In these few hours, truths are revealed, hearts are torn open, and futures are decided upon. These ambitions ultimately sink the novel. The enterprise is burdened with overthought dialogue, clumsy metaphors, and what comes across as a desperate desire to be seen as adult. The novel switches narrative perspective from teen to teen at the beginning of every chapter, but the device is unsuccessful: these characters all sound and think the same. These attributes almost make the book work as thematic commentary on the nature of teenage friendship, but unfortunately it doesn’t go much beyond the obvious observation that teens tend to think like their friends and are desperate to escape childhood. Throw in a half-baked love triangle and an apparent attempt to ape John Green and David Levithan's "Schrodinger's cat" metaphor from Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010)—a metaphor that even that book barely pulled off—and you have a book that has all the hallmarks of a smart, sensitive book for teens but without the necessary nuance or emotional excitement.

An ambitious failure. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-7489-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Although it aims to liberate, this is just another weight-loss arc accidentally portraying fatness as tragic and optional.

FAT GIRL ON A PLANE

A teen reaps economic, professional, and social benefits from losing weight.

Cookie Vonn—white and blonde like her supermodel mother—has absentee parents, a zeal for fashion, a hardcore work ethic, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: interviewing a world-famous New York designer for her blog internship. But the airline declares Cookie “too fat to fly.” So, age 17 and 330 pounds, Cookie joins the NutriNation diet plan. A plot thread labeled “fat” follows her that year, while the interspersed “skinny” thread follows her at age 19, after losing 199 pounds. Despite showing two parts of the same person’s life—not alternate universes—it reads like alternate universes. Cookie’s first-person voice is zesty, funny, bitter, and bewitching in both, but they vary starkly in plausibility. Fat Cookie faces realistic discrimination and cruelty, while skinny Cookie stumbles into fantasy-level boons: designing her own fashion line, an all-expenses-paid wealthy lifestyle, corporate sponsorship, and passionate sex in an Argentine gondola. Although skinny Cookie still can’t find joy, her bounty of material gains profoundly undermines the text’s attempted message that weight loss is no golden ticket. Skinny Cookie eventually—supposedly—reaches self-acceptance, moderating the diet that left her constantly hungry—but how much import can a literary fat-acceptance message carry when spoken by a still-skinny character? The book assumes a white default.

Although it aims to liberate, this is just another weight-loss arc accidentally portraying fatness as tragic and optional. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-373-21253-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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