A YA tale about smart choices, family secrets and peer pressure.

Flowers for Rodney

A mother’s love has not been enough to save her teenage son from increasingly delinquent behavior in this realistic young-adult novel.

In her literary debut, the author introduces 16-year-old Rodney Birge, a smart kid making a host of dumb choices. The story begins as he commits illegal acts that place him in front of a judge who will not accept the teenager’s customary rationalizations. Rodney has also exhausted the good will of his mother, who has grown weary of his manipulative, unacceptable behavior. Susan, a single parent who escaped terrible domestic abuse, still feels guilty about depriving Rodney of any relationship with his father, a weakness her son often exploits. So far, Rodney has refused to face the consequences of his actions, and Susan has constantly enabled them. But this time, with the real threat of juvenile detention hanging over him and an electronic monitor around his ankle, he reluctantly begins the process of changing his attitude and behavior. His mandatory community service at a youth center becomes much less of a punishment when his peer tutor is a blonde beauty; he rediscovers his passion for basketball; and some of the young residents at the center admire him. Susan’s life becomes more tolerable as Rodney develops socially acceptable interests, and the police officer assigned to his case takes a nonprofessional interest in her. Although many positive changes occur, this story does not have a fairy-tale ending, and violence is an integral part of the plot. Despite the painful episodes, this novel is a refreshing change of pace from YA fantasies full of zombies, vampires and aliens. Here, the monsters are flesh and blood characters who do brutal things to one another. The excellent pacing creates an urgent narrative marred only by a lack of some sophistication regarding real kids, such as when a 16-year-old boy is oddly impressed by fine table settings. Characters are well-drawn, though some of the dialogue is stilted: “It’s quite a bit bigger inside than the outside had me thinking.”

A YA tale about smart choices, family secrets and peer pressure.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492343288

Page Count: 170

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

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

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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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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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