Timely but, like all of us, painfully imperfect.

IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY

Sales’ (Once Was a Time, 2016, etc.) latest takes a messy dive into the world of public shaming and callout culture.

Seventeen-year-old Jewish high school senior Winter Halperin has her life figured out. Thanks to her blogger mother’s world-famous parenting strategies, she’s a National Spelling Bee champ who dreams of being a writer and is excited to be attending college in the fall. Everything is going smoothly until she casually tweets: “We learned many surprising things today. Like that dehnstufe is apparently a word, and that a black kid can actually win the Spelling Bee.“ Her tweet goes viral and her punishment is swift and severe: Brutally publicly shamed online, her spelling bee title and college acceptance are revoked. Winter is devastated; thinking she made a clever throwaway joke, she doesn’t understand how the world can see her as racist. She decides to sign up for a “reputation rehabilitation retreat,” where, through self-reflection, she ultimately finds a spark of hope for her future. While she is sometimes sympathetic and frequently frustrating, Winter never demonstrates a true shift toward understanding microaggressions, systemic racism, and white privilege. The few characters of color primarily seem to exist to explain race and white privilege to both the white protagonist and white readers. While clearly a cautionary tale, the book’s ultimate message is as muddled as the world of online shaming.

Timely but, like all of us, painfully imperfect. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-38099-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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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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