A biggest loser.

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HOW I GOT SKINNY, FAMOUS, AND FELL MADLY IN LOVE

A fat teen employs patently unsafe weight-loss techniques on reality television and gets skinny.

Emery’s face-lifted, Botoxing mother named her after a manicure tool, yet somehow Emery doesn’t fit in with her swimsuit-model, boob-enhanced sister or fitness-freak father. What if she weren’t fat? She acquiesces to the filming of a weight-loss reality show in her home, wanting the prize—if Emery loses 50 pounds in 50 days, she’ll win $1,000,000—but author Baker, chief news correspondent of E! Entertainment Television, makes skinniness itself the golden goal, snarkily bashing fatness from the start. The show’s producers require intense exercise and severe calorie restriction; behind their backs, Emery adds laxative tea and Adderall. Attempts to satirize the extremity—the nutritionist who takes Emery down to 790 calories per day authored How to Eat without Actually Eating—have the impact of Post-it notes on a billboard. Baker wants it both ways: Laxatives, speed and “insanely low” calories give Emery both “an eating disorder” and “good habits,” a cognitive disconnect if ever there was one; moreover, the eating disorder vanishes after its single mention, ending the story on a bizarrely upbeat note. Continuity inconsistencies may well drive readers crazy; that 790-calorie diet could well be a 395-calorie diet, for instance, but it’s just not clear. Family secrets and reality TV twists aside, this is a cheap instruction guide for dangerous dieting.

A biggest loser. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7624-5014-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Overall, a solid debut.

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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