BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA

A summerlong punishment becomes a sensitive, thoughtful novel.

Two kids are obliged to spend their summers working with the janitors to clean out the high school before it reopens in the fall.

Michael didn't mean to blow up the school. His plan was to blow up his ex–best friend's car with those bundles of firecrackers. But authorities didn't quite believe him, so he was sentenced to community service over the summer. Shelly smokes on school grounds—that's her excuse, anyway, for the summerlong detention. The two white teens find plenty to talk about and plenty to hide as they grow close over the long days. They share a passion for reading, especially the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and they slowly reveal their secrets to each other. Together, Michael and Shelly confront the realities they've been dealt and struggle to move forward together. Moe uses lyrical language to introduce teenagers whose problems go beyond bullying or unrequited love. She treats Michael's unusual home situation with realistic grace, while the relationship between the two teenagers is organic and interesting. Occasionally, the imagery is distractingly pat, as when Shelly overidentifies with two ducks far from water and says she and Michael are “kind of like those ducks….An odd pair of misfits, way out of our leagues.”

A summerlong punishment becomes a sensitive, thoughtful novel. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4405-9219-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Merit Press

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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