An engaging and enlightening coming-out tale for teens of all sexual persuasions.

MAN UP

High school athletes reckon with being gay.

In her debut novel, Oclon explores the charged playing fields of homophobia and high school sports. The tale unfolds through first-person narratives alternating between Lincoln High School students and boyfriends David and Tyler, who are equally committed to one another but at differing degrees of comfort with their sexual orientation. The novel opens with David’s responding to his father’s asking how he’d like his burger grilled by saying that he is gay—setting the stage for the focus on the unscripted awkwardness and challenges of coming out. A varsity baseball player, working-class David has been secretly dating blond track team member and AP student Tyler, who’s openly gay and gladly participates in the school’s LGBTQIAP support group. Much of the novel centers on David’s gradual acceptance of others’ learning he’s gay as he faces repeated harassment, pressure to remain in the closet from his coach, and physical assault from a homophobic teammate while also dealing with his straight best friend’s feeling betrayed when he learns about David’s orientation from another teammate. Oclon thoughtfully develops David’s and Tyler’s inner transformations when it comes to self-acceptance, noting how others in their community need to grow with them. Whiteness is situated as the default for all major characters.

An engaging and enlightening coming-out tale for teens of all sexual persuasions. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: April 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9993886-3-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Trism Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A resounding success.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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