An engaging ’90s pastiche with an earnest heart beating at its center.

RUNAWAY TRAIN

A 1990s California grunge girl mourning the death of her sister sets out on a road trip of self-discovery in this YA novel.

Sixteen-year-old Nico Sullivan has been having a rough time since police came to her door to tell her that her sister, Kristen, died of a brain aneurysm during her morning jog through Laurel Canyon. That was Halloween 1993, the same day River Phoenix overdosed across town at the Viper Room in West Hollywood. No one in Nico’s family is dealing with it well, and six months after Kristen’s death, the teen comes home to find her mother in flagrante delicto with a neighbor. Nico’s been keeping a bucket list since her sister died: “Sometimes I take it out” and pore over “its wild contents that ranged from surfing, to climbing a mountain and facing my fear of heights, to kissing a boy I really had feelings for, to getting up in front of an audience and singing my heart out.” Faced with the prospect of her parents’ divorce—and egged on by her two friends also facing burnout—Nico decides to take her teal blue Hyundai Excel up the West Coast, knocking things off the list and coming to terms with her grief. The last thing on the list: driving to Seattle and knocking on the door of her favorite singer, Kurt Cobain. What could go wrong? Goldberg brings Nico to life with a narration that, save for a few anachronisms (“hella,” “muffin top”), is unabashedly 1994: “While I’m hella jealous of Courtney Love because of who she gets to lie next to every night, Hole’s music actually rocks. As I drive, I sing ‘Miss World’ until my throat is red, knowing I should support female musicians that are part of the Riot Grrrl movement rather than tear them down.” Nico is equal parts angst, humor, and longing, a compelling combination that invites readers into all manner of memorable (and often inadvisable) situations. She doesn’t always sound entirely like a 16-year-old girl, but she embodies the grunge ethos enough to make the constant music references feel like more than just a conceit.

An engaging ’90s pastiche with an earnest heart beating at its center.

Pub Date: April 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953944-04-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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

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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