DUMB LOVE

This fat-girls-need-love-too story lives up to its billing as a “screwball comedy,” but also delivers a convincing portrait of a feisty high-school girl fighting to keep her unconventional family together. Carlotta endures the constant taunts of her classmates as she tries to weave her own romantic fantasies into a romance novel she’s writing in competition with Andrea, her skinny rival. Carlotta hopes to keep her wandering mom together with her alcoholic “stepfather,” and away from her real father, whom Carlotta hasn’t seen for years. Meanwhile, she concocts plots to get together with Pete, whom she desires, and avoid Walker, whom she doesn’t. While a bit too choppy, no doubt the comic mayhem will delight many young readers. The nice thing about this story is that it isn’t all surface; it has a beating heart. Well done. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59643-062-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Deborah Brodie/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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More a story about falling in love with yourself than with a romantic interest, this novel will resonate with all readers...

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE

Love blooms between two teens—a white girl who refuses to be judged and a biracial boy who hides himself from judgment.

Libby Strout was once America's Fattest Teen, whose house had to be cut open to allow her to be taken to the hospital. After three years of weight loss and counseling, Libby's returning to school, where Jack Masselin is the big man on campus. Full of swagger and the life of the party, Jack has developed this persona to hide the truth about himself: he can't recognize faces due to a condition known as prosopagnosia—he doesn't even recognize himself except by his Afro. When Jack grabs Libby in a cruel “game” called Fat Girl Rodeo, she punches him in the mouth, and they both wind up in group counseling. Spending time together will inspire each of them to become stronger, and slowly a kind of friendship develops that turns into more. The narration alternates between the two, effectively getting readers into both kids’ heads. The discomfort and fear that Jack feels come through clearly, as he constantly rehearses the “identifiers” of everyone he knows in order to avoid embarrassing mistakes, as do Libby's particular anxieties: will she get stuck behind her desk? Will her peers ever see her for herself?

More a story about falling in love with yourself than with a romantic interest, this novel will resonate with all readers who’ve struggled to love themselves. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75592-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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