Well-meaning and timely but not as strong as Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl and Brie Spangler’s Beast (both 2016)


A trans girl artist goes on a road trip with her fat best friend and publicly dresses as her true self for the first time.

Jess (Jeremy to Jess' dad) and Christophe (Chunk to Jess) are on their way to the wedding of Jess' estranged dad. Thanks to her father’s transphobia, Jess has been on hormones for only the seven months since she turned 18, and she's worried about passing. As they drive from liberal San Jose through places about which Jess has only fearful stereotypes, she seesaws from euphoria at the freedom of living openly to utter terror. Does she have visible stubble? Will she be murdered in a gas-station toilet? Jess realizes slowly that there are trans and trans-friendly people all over the U.S. She realizes even more slowly that—regardless of her own gender—she can behave in some pretty rotten ways to her loved ones. Jess' personal growth comes slowly, and she treats her overwhelmingly considerate best friend in fatphobic ways he clearly loathes. At the moment of truth an out-of-the-blue epiphany provides a happy ending. Written by the mother of a trans woman, the narrative appears at times to be more a vehicle for communicating the essential humanity of trans people than a fully developed story; both Jess and Christophe appear to be white by default.

Well-meaning and timely but not as strong as Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl and Brie Spangler’s Beast (both 2016) . (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-38006-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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