A fine vacation read—quick, deadly, and surprisingly entertaining.

THE GAME

High schooler Lia is thoroughly prepared to try to win Assassins, the secretive game the senior class plays every year.

Small teams receive email messages from the mysterious Council identifying their targets, whom they must “execute” with water pistols while avoiding their own stalkers. Lia, unlike her older brother and friends, has never been a star. Winning this highly competitive game will finally be her turn to shine, so she’s been keeping tabs on many of her classmates’ schedules. Her BFF, Gem, is amused when Devon, the guy Lia wishes were her boyfriend, ends up on their team along with Ben, whose sister Gem crushes on. But then students start dying, beginning with Lia’s first target. It looks like an accident, but Lia heard something suspicious and she’s not sure. Other deaths follow, and even as Lia’s relationship with Devon deepens, evidence starts to point to her as the culprit. With Lia’s parents unsupportive and the police suspicious of her, it falls to her and her surviving friends to identify and stop the killer. A brisk pace and short chapters keep the plot moving relentlessly forward, sustaining suspense, and if the details and lack of character development don’t quite bear up under close examination, it’s easy to overlook those shortcomings. Lia seems to be White; brown-skinned Gem uses they/them pronouns, and Devon is cued as Latinx.

A fine vacation read—quick, deadly, and surprisingly entertaining. (Mystery. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17978-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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