An engrossing and exceptionally relevant pre-apocalyptic tale that begs for a sequel.

WE LIGHT UP THE SKY

Three teenagers in Los Angeles find themselves on the brink of an alien invasion.

At Fairfax High, Pedro, Luna, and Rafa are not friends. Pedro is a loud, flashy dresser and a social media influencer whose sharp tongue conceals the pain he experiences from his harshly critical uncle. Luna rides high on the social ladder, but beneath her popularity she is saddled with penetrating grief from the death of her beloved cousin, Tasha, to Covid-19 two years prior. Rafa is a quiet outsider, fiercely focused on protecting his family—especially his little sister, Mónica—and currently living in a tent under the highway. This unlikely trio comes together to solve the puzzling appearance of a strange teenage girl who looks exactly like Tasha. Rivera offers an eerie, immersive page-turner that immediately grips readers in large part because of her skilled characterization that adds emotional richness to an engaging extraterrestrial mystery. The bond that develops between Pedro, Luna, and Rafa reflects the ways that humanity can come to the fore even when faced with the most terrifying of dangers. The inclusion of the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and the distrust of communities of color toward the police paints just the right social context for the lives of these near-contemporary Southern California teens. Characters are cued as Latinx.

An engrossing and exceptionally relevant pre-apocalyptic tale that begs for a sequel. (Science fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0376-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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