Like a beautiful starling, Lo is too fragile on her own for the harsh life of the flat world.



As a feathered and sequined changeling, Lo holds circus audiences spellbound, forgetting that for those who venture outside the big top, there is no safety net.

Sheltered in their vans, protected by tradition, sisters Lo and Rita journey through the countryside in modern-day England, performing increasingly dangerous trapeze feats and drawing crowds to their circus tent. The secure world of the showman travelers hinges on isolation from “flatties,” devotion to kin, and a steadfast commitment to a wandering way of life that is generations old. However, the tightknit circus community unravels when Lo falls in love with a boy from the outside and family secrets can no longer remain hidden. Lo’s tragic end is apparent in the opening pages, but alternating chapters told in the first-person voices of the sisters unveil the events that bring about her ultimate fall. With delicate language, Heathfield (Paper Butterflies, 2017, etc.) parallels the illusions that create circus magic with hints at sexual identity, a mother’s betrayal, and a grandfather’s grief, tenderly painting a world clinging to its storied past. Prejudices on both sides of the big top add another thoughtful layer to this gem of a novel, one that is sure to be savored. Characters readers will miss long after the book is closed combine tender innocence and fierce loyalty. Limited physical descriptions make ethnicities difficult to determine.

Like a beautiful starling, Lo is too fragile on her own for the harsh life of the flat world. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2611-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.


Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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