A compelling mix of romance and raw emotion.

A Black teen born of sexual assault struggles to love herself.

Richmond, Virginia, high school junior Michelle is struggling to write college admissions and scholarship essays that ask her to define herself. She can’t help but fixate on the one aspect of her identity she keeps secret: At 15, her mom was raped, becoming pregnant with Michie. Despite assurances from her therapist, Grandma, best friend JoJo, and hot new basketball star Derek that she is good enough—not only worthy of love, but actually loved—Michie battles anxiety. She is convinced that if only her mom could fully embrace her, everything would be different and better. But when her mom reaches out after a decade of estrangement, Michie must decide if she is willing to see her, face her pain and fear head-on, and let go of all of the baggage from the past. Debut author Clarke delves into an intense, rarely explored subject with skill; touches of humor lighten the text. Michie’s grief, self-hatred, and feelings of not being enough are presented in ways that show readers the full facets of her emotions and allow them to empathize with and relate to what she’s going through. The inclusion of her mom’s perspective, while short, is well written and reveals her to be not Michie’s antagonist but a complicated person in her own right. JoJo has Persian ancestry, and Derek is Black and Mexican American.

A compelling mix of romance and raw emotion. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5670-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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