WILD AND CROOKED

In three voices and six “acts,” Thomas’ (When Light Left Us, 2018, etc.) latest plumbs the prejudices behind a murder that divided two families and their Kentucky town.

What’s in a name? Plenty. Gay, feminist Kalyn-Rose Spence’s surname is synonymous with poverty and being targeted for harassment; the residents of Samsboro (aka “Shitsboro”) never forgave her father for murdering a local golden boy decades earlier. But is he guilty? Wealthy, “gay and confused” Gus Peake, who has cerebral palsy, two moms, and a “glorious menagerie of issues” including aphasia, feels doomed to be “the disabled kid” or “the kid whose dad got murdered.” When their pasts threaten their budding friendship, Shakespeare-inflected, uber-analytical classmate Phil tries to “keep Capulets and Montagues from clashing” as he struggles to develop a conscience despite his anti-social personality disorder. In alternating perspectives, the trio endeavor to forge their own identities as they seek clues that may reveal Gus' father's real killer. The mystery resolves in a last-minute rush, but the book’s real stars are its poignantly explored issues: love, social class, sexuality, homophobia, and the cycles of poverty and abuse. Kalyn’s conflicted, loving relationship with her dad is particularly well-examined. However, the teens’ heavy-handed exposition and discussions of fictional tropes and their subversion risk making their characters feel as “manufactured” and “intentionally offbeat” as the teen-targeting goth store Gus browses in, marring their refreshingly intersectional diversity. Most characters default to white.

Thought-provoking. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0002-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

The lives of two girls named Hannah, living in different centuries on different continents, intersect.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Dory is an English peasant living a harsh existence in 1347. Hannah Doe is a resident of Belman Psychiatric Hospital in 2023 New York City, brought in after being found on the street experiencing hallucinations and screaming something about a castle. Modern-day Hannah periodically enters a catatonic state, something the staff refer to as her “going to the castle.” Columbia psychology student Jordan Hassan is a new intern at Belman, and his interest is piqued by this girl no one knows much about. He decides to play detective and try to discover her history himself. Meanwhile, in the medieval England storyline, Hannah Dory tries to save her village from starvation by sneaking into the baron’s castle but finds herself swept up in a fight between the new baron and his rival. The book sustains a breakneck pace with short chapters and many cliffhangers that will keep readers’ interest. Patterson’s author’s note includes a list of mental health resources and describes his experience of working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. The narrative thoughtfully centers mental illness and touches on complex topics like suicide. Whiteness is the default; Jordan is cued as Muslim.

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-41172-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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