A bold and inventive environmental tale with a striking protagonist.


A teenager takes a year off to write the Great American Novel of climate change in this YA fiction debut.

High school junior Elaine Archer is having a climate change–driven existential crisis. After seeing a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose, she can no longer sit quietly in class and concentrate on physics or algebra. Not when the environment is collapsing around her, no way. As she tells her two moms, “The world is literally falling apart!...And school isn’t teaching me a single thing that’s going to help….Every single kid is in school, only we’re not teaching them how to do anything that might help….That should be ALL we’re doing.” They agree to let Elaine take a year off—if worst comes to worst, she can go back and repeat a grade—but only if she can come up with a productive use of her time. Elaine decides she wants to write a novel, though she doesn’t know exactly what it will be about. Her new freedom gives her the opportunity to meet people she would not have otherwise, including artsy Chicago hipsters, a fellow aspiring teenage writer, and a celebrity author who turns out to be a real monster. Elaine is exposed to books and concepts that change the way she thinks not only about the climate, but also about human history, sexual politics, and the ways people interact with Earth. Ideas begin to percolate, and Elaine soon starts drafting a dystopian novel of her own. Yet her art cannot be fully separated from her life, and the relationships she’s forged around her begin to shape those that she creates for her characters. Elaine may not have the scientific know-how to fix climate change, but can she come up with a more useful story to explain the state of things than the one she’s been learning in school—even if that tale is just for her?

Mather’s prose, as narrated by the profane, flippant, and often hilarious Elaine, is vibrant and surprising. Here, the protagonist makes one of her many allusions to her favorite movie, Aliens, which is, for her, a Bible-like font of parables: “Ripley never begged Hicks to love her. Even when she says to him, If an alien gets me, you gotta promise to kill me so I don’t end up impregnated and with an alien bursting out of my chest….He just says, ‘If it comes to that, I’ll do us both….’ But she neverbegs.” The story is a thrilling read right from the beginning. As soon as Elaine is allowed to quit school, the normal rules seem no longer to apply. The tale eschews standard YA tropes and plot structure, taking Elaine and readers in unexpected directions. By the time readers are consuming Elaine’s novel alongside Mather’s, it will be clear that they are experiencing a work of unusual depth and ambition. It is a climate change novel, yes, but it’s a book about so much more: angst, idealism, self-discovery, and reclaiming the world by reclaiming the narrative.

A bold and inventive environmental tale with a striking protagonist.

Pub Date: April 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73-295967-5

Page Count: 395

Publisher: Whisk(e)y Tit

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...


Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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

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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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