A HOUSE LIKE A LOTUS

An intricate, ultimately overdrawn story about sixteen-year-old Polly O'Keefe and her coming of age. Geographically, Polly moves from her home on Benne Seed Island (off South Carolina) to Athens and Cyprus but what L'Engle really tracks is Polly's emotional course. L'Engle begins in Athens and, through present narrative and frequent recall, contrasts Polly's three days escorted by Zachary Gray to her previous eight months as the protegee of Maximiliana Home, a wealthy neighbor who dazzled the teenager with art and champagne, philosophical conversations and timely encouragements. What the reader senses for a while—a betrayal back at Benne Seed—is disclosed by the time Polly reaches Cyprus. Max, who first concealed a fatal illness, loses control one night (bourbon for the pain) and reaches out to Polly for more than friendship. Recoiling, Polly runs to friend Renny, who first comforts and then seduces her. She has two more approaches from men before reaching a new equilibrium. L'Engle is such a practiced storyteller that although Max herself and the evolving relationship seem unoriginal, the actual telling is suspenseful. And she makes Zachary different enough from the others in Polly's life to make the Athens episode credible. But although the final revelations, made while Polly works at a conference in Cyprus, are fitting, the conference experience itself unbalances the book. Jammed with a complete set of new characters, customs, and themes, it makes the book too rich—like having three desserts after a roast beef dinner. L'Engle attempts a lot here and accomplishes much of it, but readers may well jump ship before Polly heads for home.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1984

ISBN: 0312547986

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1984

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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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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...

DEAR MARTIN

In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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