BEACON HILL BOYS

Dan Inagaki is tired of being labeled “Oriental” and equally tired of the pressure from his parents to be the perfect Japanese-American son. Dan’s pals Eddie, Frank, and Jerry all have their own takes on coping with the prejudices and stereotypes within and outside their community in 1970s Seattle. The mixture of races at Beacon Hill High is all in that slow move to political consciousness that epitomized the decade, but Dan feels he and his friends are barely waking up. With the example of “black power” he tries to take some actions for change. Mochizuki (Passage to Freedom, not reviewed, etc.) makes the time period vivid with mentions of the music, drugs, hair styles, clothing, and, of course, the Vietnam War. Successful at portraying the boy’s impatience with their labels, Dan is less successfully shown as beginning his revolt against the assumptions of those around him. Throughout, he longs for the attention of Janet, whose beauty and style make her beyond reach, especially given his inarticulate longings. Despite her hints of being interested and the flirtatiousness of others, sex barely exists in the story. The flavor is highly autobiographical, and indeed, Mochizuki grew up in Seattle during this time period, and has commented on his own struggle with prejudice. Perhaps it is the veil of fiction that makes this episodic narrative seem distant from the character’s inner turmoil. On the other hand, it is perhaps Mochizuki’s closeness to the people and events that makes it seem more of a recitation of painful memories that even time and distance haven’t softened. Beginning and ending with a family dinner at a Japanese restaurant, the story offers little closure for the characters beyond Dan’s own reflections of hope for change. Lifelike and true to that most befuddling of times. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-26749-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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