Unlikely to draw much of a crowd—but it could be meaningful to the readers who need it most.

THE STONE RAINBOW

A closeted teen galvanizes his small town’s first-ever Pride parade.

Months after Ryan saved Jack from drowning, Jack wonders if they’re really friends at all. Meanwhile, Jack takes swimming lessons from Cody, a Thompson Mills “triple threat” (“misogynistic, homophobic, and relatively racist”). Things on the friendship front start to look up when gorgeous, city boy Benjamin shows up in art class. As luck would have it, Benjamin is gay, too. But, unlike Jack, Benjamin has no intention of hiding it. After a tragic accident sends Benjamin to the hospital, Jack decides to show Thompson Mills—a town that’s “so small that being different usually means you’re flying solo”—exactly what community looks like. This companion novel to Shaw’s Caterpillars Can’t Swim (2017) shifts the first-person narrative focus to Jack instead of Ryan. Though there are two biracial leads (Jack is Guatemalan/white, Benjamin is Chinese/white), their descriptions name and focus on their nonwhite ancestry in a way that only serves to emphasize whiteness as the default. Ryan has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. This story of rural Pride is at times inspirational, but it is flattened by Shaw’s perpetuation of queer stereotypes (e.g., the camp gay mentor). Nonetheless, the intersectional characters make this “out of the closet, into the fire” tale a slight scratch above the rest.

Unlikely to draw much of a crowd—but it could be meaningful to the readers who need it most. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77260-108-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Second Story Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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