A textured coming-of-age story deeply rooted in a working-class community.

In the boxing ring, “unlike in real life, / no matter where you / was born, / who you are / what dolla’ you got, / you can actually / win.”

Molly Levine rages against a world that tells her people like her can’t make it, can’t dream. Growing up in poverty on a council estate in London’s East End, her older brother Denny’s the only one in her corner, teaching her to box, to stand up and make something of herself. When Denny disappears on the day of her first fight, sought by the police on suspicion of assaulting a man, she’s beyond shattered. With help from her best friend, Kwaku, Molly vows to find Denny and clear his name, in the process unravelling a mystery older than she is. The triumphant underdog arc isn’t surprising; more interesting are the plotline surrounding Denny’s disappearance and the gradual reveal of supporting characters’ inner nuances as Molly comes to understand that she’s not the only person with problems. While she adores Kwaku, who also boxes at her gym, Molly’s resentful of his family’s relative wealth. The Levines are proper Cockneys, and gentrification is explored but not racism or immigration. Molly comes off as realistically belligerent, self-absorbed, and distraught in ways that may resonate with many teens. The combination of verse and prose keeps the pace moving, and colloquialisms add to the sense of place.

A textured coming-of-age story deeply rooted in a working-class community. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-91434-303-2

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022


A thrilling, high-tech page-turner with deep roots.

A teen navigates different worlds: real and virtual, colonized and Indigenous.

In the near-future real world, Bugz’s family has clout in the community—her mom is their first modern-day woman chief, her father’s a highly admired man, and her older brother is handsome and accomplished. Socially awkward Bugz, by contrast, feels more successful in the virtual gaming world of the Floraverse, where she has amassed tremendous power. Yes, her ’Versona has a slimmed-down figure—but Bugz harnesses her passion for the natural world and her Anishinaabe heritage to build seemingly unbeatable defenses, especially her devoted, lovingly crafted Thunderbird and snake/panther Mishi-pizhiw. Cheered on by legions of fans, she battles against Clan:LESS, a group of angry, misogynistic male gamers. One of them, Feng, ends up leaving China under a cloud of government suspicion and moving to her reservation to live with his aunt, the new doctor; they are Muslim Uighurs who have their own history of forced reeducation and cultural erasure. Feng and Bugz experience mutual attraction—and mistrust—and their relationship in and out of the Floraverse develops hesitantly under a shadow of suspected betrayal. Kinew (Anishinaabe) has crafted a story that balances heart-pounding action scenes with textured family and community relationships, all seamlessly undergirded by storytelling that conveys an Indigenous community’s past—and the vibrant future that follows from young people’s active, creative engagement with their culture.

A thrilling, high-tech page-turner with deep roots. (glossary, resources) (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6900-2

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021


A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams.

Who doesn’t want to be a K-pop idol?

Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan—but secretly, because she fears it’s a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee’s fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry’s actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay.

A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63993-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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