Lively, moving, and heartfelt.

SWING

Seventeen-year-old Noah struggles with the feelings he has for Sam, a childhood friend, and is encouraged to express himself by an ebullient buddy.

Noah and his friend Walt Disney Jones, aka Swing, are linked by a love of baseball. Swing is also obsessed with jazz and tries to make Noah a devotee as well. Along with their various personal dramas—Swing’s new stepfather, the romantic advice Noah is receiving—someone has been planting American flags around town, leaving folks to speculate who and why. At a thrift store, Noah purchases a travel bag as a birthday gift for his mother and inside he finds long-hidden love letters. They encourage him to put his feelings on paper, but Swing forces his hand by anonymously giving his writing to Sam, causing a rift between them. Then, out of nowhere, everything changes, and the innocence of their lives is shattered as their friendship troubles are put into perspective by something far more serious. The free verse tells a story as complex as the classic jazz music woven throughout. Noah is the narrator, but it is Swing, with his humor, irresistible charm, and optimism, who steals the spotlight. All the secondary characters are distinctive and add texture to the narrative. Swing is African-American, while Noah is white. Despite the easy flow of verse, there is a density to this story with its multiple elements.

Lively, moving, and heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-310-76191-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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