A fast-paced series that is a good start for reluctant teen readers.



From the Orca Soundings series

When Jake’s friend Maria, the daughter of undocumented immigrants, goes missing, Jake must find her and keep her safe.

Jake and his family are dirt poor. His mother abandoned the family, his father hates his restaurant job, his older brother is in prison, and his younger brother is withdrawn. Jake’s closest friend, a classmate named Maria, doesn’t share much about her life. Maria finally confesses that her parents are in the country illegally. There have been a lot of government crackdowns on undocumented immigration, and Maria is fearful. When she goes missing, Jake and a friend seek the help of their history teacher, who is able to confirm that Maria’s parents were detained by immigration—but not Maria herself. Maria’s parents’ country of origin is never mentioned, and the book assumes a white default. The strength of this narrative is that Jake doesn’t solve Maria’s problems on his own but relies on his community to help. However, the pervasive use of the phrase “illegal immigrant” throughout is troubling. This story is timely but wraps up too neatly to be believable considering the complexities of undocumented immigration. In Mayan Murder, by Martha Brack Martin (D-Day, 2012), Tom goes on vacation to Cancun with his girlfriend and her FBI agent father and gets involved in solving a drug cartel’s kidnapping of a child. In Hide and Shriek, by Alison Hughes (Kasey & Ivy, 2018, etc.), 14-year-old Emily and her friends spy on their shady neighbors, who are involved in an illegal transaction, and are chased down by the criminals.

A fast-paced series that is a good start for reluctant teen readers. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1804-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.


Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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