Despite a few oversimplifications, this is a thoughtful and accessible story about the many meanings—positive and...

UNCHAINED

In an unnamed city, the son of drug-addicted parents finds a loving foster home, then loses everything.

Part of the publisher's Gravel Road line, which produces a junior version of “urban street lit” aimed at reluctant readers, the book is attractively packaged with a photographic cover, a small trim and plenty of white space on its pages. Sentences are short and vocabulary simple, but narrator TJ's voice is expressive, even though some complexity is sacrificed to move the story forward. TJ's ambivalence toward his family is clear from the first evocative scene, in which a fight between 5-year-old TJ and his father ends in laughter. His relationship to the Hillside Vipers, a gang that recruits TJ when he is 13, also rings true: TJ joins the gang because he is afraid not to. The emotional center of the book is Miss Dixie, the boundlessly warm proprietor of a group home where TJ lives after the state separates him from his family. Although the redemptive relationships TJ builds at Miss Dixie's are compelling, Miss Dixie's promise that TJ “will always have a place here” seems hard to believe, given how many young people need foster care.

Despite a few oversimplifications, this is a thoughtful and accessible story about the many meanings—positive and negative—of family. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61651-7-922

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Saddleback Educational Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death...

THE EDGE OF FALLING

Wealthy high school junior Mcalister “Caggie” Caulfield seeks relief from grief over her younger sister’s death by entering into a dangerous relationship with a mysterious boy.

After her little sister drowns in the pool at her family’s beach house in the Hamptons, Caggie wants to die too, to the point that she contemplates jumping off the roof at a friend’s party in Manhattan. A schoolmate named Kristen saves her at the last minute but nearly falls herself. Caggie actually ends up pulling Kristen back and is credited as a hero, which only makes her feel worse. In her grief, Caggie spurns the attentions of her best friend and devoted boyfriend, but she finds a kindred spirit in Astor, a tall, dark and damaged new boy at school who recently lost his mother to cancer. But what Caggie comes to realize about her relationship with Astor is that “[d]arkness stacked on darkness just makes it that much harder to find the light.” After another nearly fatal disaster with Astor at the beach house, Caggie is forced to confront the falsehoods she has told her family and friends and let go of her guilt over her sister’s death. Though Caggie makes a point of telling readers that her paternal grandfather called people like her “phony,” almost nothing is made of the connection to Catcher in the Rye, and it serves merely to make Caggie’s tale suffer by comparison.

Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death and lies. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3316-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the...

THE MOST DANGEROUS THING

An eleventh-grade girl wants to start a relationship but is stymied by depression and anxiety.

Syd knows her depression isn’t really out of control, like some people’s. She can usually manage the crushing fog that weighs her down: tricking herself into getting out of bed by playing the phone game; biking around Vancouver, British Columbia, until she’s exhausted; investing online with her cantankerous grandfather; eating just enough to get by. It works well enough until her lab partner, Paul, starts texting and flirting. Syd would respond in kind if she could, but she’s afraid to make eye contact or have conversations with new people—how could she possibly start a relationship? Fading into the background would be ideal, but her gregarious family has other plans. Her mother, revitalizing the family Passover celebration, ropes Syd into embarrassing Jewish singalongs. Worse, Syd’s vivacious sister wants to perform The Vagina Monologues for the school drama festival, and she’s written her own monologue—one that uses “the c-word”! The oozing darkness that dominates Syd’s thoughts is authentically represented in her present-tense narration and appropriately addressed with professional mental health treatment. Frustratingly, however, Syd’s nervousness about romantic and sexual intimacy is pathologized as a curable symptom of her mental illness.

An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the flavor for a tale of recovery and empowerment . (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1184-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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