Skip this exercise in white-savior narrative.

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THE LIVES OF DESPERATE GIRLS

In the wake of the disappearance of her wealthy, white best friend, a white teenager in a small Ontario town investigates the murder of a classmate she doesn’t know: a Native girl from the nearby reserve.

The police have interrogated Jenny several times, as they feel that she has information about her friend, Chloe; she does, withholding it from both them and readers. But the police put Helen’s story and investigation on the back burner, causing Jenny to suddenly recognize the mistreatment of Native people. As in far too many thrillers for teens, the parents conveniently never ask questions, even in the most dire of circumstances. In a particularly troubling representation, Native parents are depicted as passive victims who need Jenny’s involvement. Jenny’s cluelessness is both difficult to believe and actively offensive. Although rez kids live so close as to attend Jenny’s school, she doesn’t even know their nation and must ask, “uh, what do I call you guys? Like, First Nations or something?” (The answer is likely to illuminate readers no more than it does Jenny.) When Jenny and her pothead boyfriend frighten away a young Native man she wants to question, it triggers a burst of laughter, a snuggle, and the thought “For the first time since Chloe disappeared, I felt truly happy”—this just a few days after sitting in the home of a Native mother who tells her about the residential school experience. Stiff prose, inconsistent characterization, and clunky plotting round out this novel’s woes.

Skip this exercise in white-savior narrative. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-319871-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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