A rich coming-of-age tale of friendship and self-discovery.


Changing times run up against traditional values in this third installment of a YA series.

It’s the fall of 1969, and 16-year-old Malachi “Mally” Jacobs has just returned to Croy, Oklahoma, for the start of the school year. It was a watershed summer for Mally. He spent it in New York City, where he witnessed the Stonewall riots (totally by accident) and met his first-ever boyfriend, Vince. Now, he’s back in Croy several inches taller, with a new nickname—Jake—and a newly awakened sense of himself as a young gay man. That isn’t to say he’s out of the closet: Croy is still “Smalltown Nowhere,” as one character puts it, “where the highlights are pregnancies, strokes, and collapsing old buildings.” Jake’s best friend, Joanie Tibbits, knows Croy’s secret, of course. As the junior editor of the school paper, she knows just about everything—except why her boyfriend (and Jake’s other best friend), Randy Edom, has been acting so strange toward her of late. As the school year progresses, Jake and Randy throw themselves into football and then basketball, though team dynamics are in flux since their high school was combined with the largely Black school across town. Jake is trying to keep his personal business to himself, but he’s hardly the only one in Croy with something gnawing on his mind. His new friend, long-haired Beau Hamilton, feels a strong attraction to women’s clothing. Joanie’s Christian friend Bobbie Littledeer is sick with something, but she’s afraid to tell her medicine-skeptical parents about it. Randy has several weighty distractions of his own, including the fact that his father has escaped from prison and that he’s just inherited a great deal of money upon turning 18. Things are changing for nearly everyone in Croy—America itself is transforming—but are the shifts faced by Jake and his friends for the better or for the worse?

The novel includes stylish but infrequent black-and-white illustrations by Crosby (so rare that readers will always be surprised when one appears). Ceci’s prose is smooth and never hurried, depicting the angst and dread of his teenage characters with wry restraint: “It was Beau’s first time in detention, and he worried what other kids would be there. The toughest, he bet. The kind that would knock your books loose in the hall or clip you with their car as you crossed the street. And he was right.” The author makes good use of the large cast of supporting characters, switching the point of view as needed to expand the story in unexpected ways. As a result, readers will get a good sense of Croy and the sort of people who live there: folks caught between personal desires and the expectations of those around them. Compared to the earlier books in the series, the characters feel sharper, their conflicts more organic, and the world a bit more lived-in. Elements from the previous volumes inform the plot, but generally in ways that deepen the narrative. Readers familiar with the second installment in particular will get more enjoyment out of this one, but those picking up the series for the first time will be impressed with Ceci’s confident craftsmanship and insightful evocation of adolescence.

A rich coming-of-age tale of friendship and self-discovery.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2021


Page Count: 237

Publisher: Les Croyens Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller


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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Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)


In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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