17

The story of a teen’s sexual coming of age, twinned with her struggles with anorexia and depression, is distinguished from so many of its ilk by an exceptionally fine and precise prose style. Steph is 17, prey to all the usual doubts and insecurities of that age, but her situational angst is compounded by the difficulties attendant upon having a manic-depressive mother. On the days when her artist mother is up, it’s “like coming into a room with party lights on where you had extended a hand forward, frightened, expecting to fall into pitch darkness,” but in Steph’s household, the yawning blackness seems to be much closer to the norm. Absent any real emotional security at home (her father is loving but ineffectual), when Steph begins a romance with the almost frighteningly intellectual Denny, she finds herself becoming more and more unhinged and alone. There is no hint of the cautionary in the deliberate examination of Steph’s first sexual experiences—with the possible exception of an almost hilarious scene where she blurts out her fears of an impossible pregnancy to her grandfatherly history teacher—just a celebration of erotic awakening. This celebration, however, is followed almost immediately by a corresponding awareness of a growing emotional void as her relationship with Denny becomes increasingly joyless. The present-tense narration puts the reader almost claustrophobically into Steph’s increasingly uncomfortable head; its tendency to refer to her much more as “the girl” than by name emphasizes her growing sense of alienation. Steph’s tentative steps back to health are charted as deliberately as her decline. If some subplots—notably a most peculiar one involving Denny’s unfaithful, alcoholic father—do not add to the narrative as a whole, neither do they materially detract. As noted, the story itself is not particularly new—but Rosenberg’s (We Wanted You, 2002, etc.) of telling it is beautifully, hauntingly effective. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8126-4915-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Cricket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

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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Small but mighty necessary reading.

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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