For her third outing, Zindel (Girl of the Moment, 2007, and The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies, 2008) takes a stab at updating Hamlet, transforming the melancholy Dane into a California girl mourning her mother's suicide—or was it? At boarding school back East, Holly has been ignoring her father's e-mails for months, attempting to block out the reality of his newfound romance with—ew!—Holly's late mother's sister, Claudia. Stuck at home for two weeks on Christmas break, fueled by grief and visitations from her mother's ghost, Holly's loathing and resentment of Claudia blossom into suspicion that her aunt poisoned her mother, so she sets out to prove it, with disastrous but ultimately life-affirming results. A novel about a teenager struggling to adapt to her radically changing family dynamic in the months following her mother's suicide is a very worthy type of book. That novel, however, saddled with the author's determination to shoehorn in thinly drawn stand-ins for Polonius, Ophelia and Laertes, as well as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and an iMovie version of the Claudius-poisons-King-Hamlet play (starring rowdy Australians), is a hot mess. (Fiction. YA) 

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-01159-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A clever, hilarious, and empathetic look at diverse teens exploring authenticity, identities, and code-switching.


Fake it till you make it?

Unlike Gray, his aspiring rock star older brother, camera-shy Korean American teen Sunny Dae loves sharing his nerdy hobbies of live-action role-playing Dungeons & Dragons and designing cosplay props with his best friends, Milo and Jamal, despite the bullying he receives from a school jock. Milo is Guatemalan American and Jamal is Jamaican American, and the trio have bonded in their Southern California town that is over 99% White. Then Sunny meets Rancho Ruby High School’s newest student, the beautiful, worldly, music-loving, Korean American Cirrus Soh. Soon, he finds himself doing things he’s never done before, like pretending his brother’s band is actually his. Yoon captures the humor, the heart, and the universal anxieties—and possibilities—of trying on new identities in high school while also exploring microaggressions, toxic masculinity, bullying, parachute parenting, and classism. The book cautions readers against judging character based solely on outward appearances. Part of its brilliance lies in how it shows the ways Sunny’s and Gray’s desires for acceptance and popularity reflect what they see as their parents’ own efforts to keep up with the Joneses. Dungeons & Dragons fans will appreciate the symbolic parallels between Sunny’s story arc and the fate of the paladin figurine he made in middle school.

A clever, hilarious, and empathetic look at diverse teens exploring authenticity, identities, and code-switching. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984812-23-0

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A gay, transgender brujo with burgeoning powers seeks answers about his cousin’s death.

Sixteen-year-old Yadriel also wishes for acknowledgement from his community but unexpectedly finds himself entangled in the unresolved wishes of a strong-willed, good-looking spirit. He descends from a long line of brujx who have been granted magic power by Lady Death to heal the living and to guide spirits into the afterlife. Although he’s grown up surrounded by a close-knit community, Yadriel feels alone, excluded indefinitely from a sacred rite of passage because he is transgender. When he senses that his cousin Miguel has died suddenly but the family can’t locate him, Yadriel sees an opportunity to prove to everyone he’s a true brujo by solving the mystery and releasing his cousin’s lost spirit. His plan quickly falls apart, as he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, a boy with unfinished business who died the same day as Miguel. Both the romance and mystery burn slow and hot until the climax. Stakes begin high, and the intensity only increases with a looming deadline and a constant risk that Julian might lose himself, turning maligno. The cast of characters represents a diversity of Latinx identities sharing a community in East Los Angeles. Julian is Colombian while Yadriel is Cuban and Mexican. Their romance provides joyful, ground-breaking representation for gay, transgender boys.

Heart-pounding. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25046-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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