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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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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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide To Murder series , Vol. 1

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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