A compelling story of identity and family that resonates most powerfully in its historical voice.

WE WALKED THE SKY

In a story told in two voices, several generations of women in VanDrexel’s Family Circus learn how and when to be solo acts—and when to trust the net.

When the circus comes to Brooksvale, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1965, a wealthy 16-year-old seizes the chance to escape her abusive father. Renaming herself Victoria, she joins the circus, planning to leave once she’s far enough away to build a stable, independent life for herself. She doesn’t plan to become a tightrope walker, and she certainly doesn’t plan to fall in love….Half a century later, 16-year-old high-wire star Callie and her mother, Quinn, leave the circus after Callie’s secretive grandmother Victoria dies. Quinn’s new job at an animal sanctuary in Florida puts Callie’s career on hold, and she reluctantly enrolls at the local high school. Against Victoria’s captivating and emotional narrative, Callie’s resistance to a settled life reads as less sympathetic and her conflict as lower stakes, even after the discovery of an old box of keepsakes from Victoria’s transformative and tragic young adulthood changes Callie’s life. Victoria, Callie, Quinn, and those closest to them are assumed white; nonwhite characters are extremely marginal. While Victoria briefly mentions the “ugly din” of “riots” in Harlem and Birmingham, specific social and political movements go unaddressed; Callie’s voice is similarly disconnected from current events.

A compelling story of identity and family that resonates most powerfully in its historical voice. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-48080-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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