THUNDERWITH

In her first YA novel, an Australian author vividly portrays present-day farmers in New South Wales's coastal rain forest. Lara has just lost her mother to cancer; a search by kindly neighbors turns up Dad, whom she barely remembers. The two quickly form a comfortable bond, but Dad's new wife, Gladwyn, and their four kids are less welcoming. Gladwyn's resentment borders on hatred; she declares openly that there's no room for Lara in the one-room shack where they live, eking out a meager living from a vegetable garden and hoping to make a profit on newly planted palm seedlings. Dad is gone on business, with almost no communication, for months; a neighbor who rides on Lara's school bus is a cruel bully. Grieving for her mother, Lara at first receives scant comfort except from Thunderwith, a dog she encounters in the hills. In time, she also makes friends with a sympathetic aboriginal storyteller, while her new siblings, one by one, come to love her. Even Gladwyn—revealed to have had a loveless upbringing that, added to relentless work and long separations from Dad, has left her stern and unyielding—finally comes around, but not until after Thunderwith's tragic death. The fine range of believable characters and authentic detail here make up for the several rough spots and loose ends: e.g., Dad's absence is inadequately explained, and the dog doesn't come to life enough to make Lara's attachment to him seem vital. Still, a well-written, absorbing debut. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-316-35034-6

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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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.

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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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