An engrossing narrative that gently but directly explores complex relationships. (Historical fiction. 14-adult)

WHEN THE GROUND IS HARD

A 16-year-old girl finds friendship and questions social hierarchies at her boarding school.

After Adele Joubert is demoted from her favored place among the popular girls and sent to live in a room where a former student died, she begins to question the carefully structured hierarchy of her community. Within Keziah Christian Academy, a school for mixed-race students in 1965 Swaziland, a class system separates the rich from the poor, dictating who eats first at meals and who gets access to the best textbooks. Hair texturism, colorism, and the legitimacy of their parents’ relationships also create divisions that Adele, who is of black and white ancestry, challenges with her budding friendship with her new roommate, Lottie Diamond, a poor outcast of Jewish, Scottish, and Zulu heritage. When classmate Darnell Parns, who is coded as neurodivergent, goes missing, Adele pushes boundaries aside to search for him and, in the process, learns more about her own complicated origins in the sweeping hills where Keziah is situated. With a critical emphasis on power dynamics among the multiracial students, the story moves quickly, focusing on Adele’s interpersonal development. The gorgeous imagery sets the scene wonderfully, and there is mention of the religious and geographical colonization represented in the book, the hazy morals of the adults, and the relationships between black, white, and mixed-race citizens of Swaziland, but the narrative doesn’t dig too deeply into these subjects.

An engrossing narrative that gently but directly explores complex relationships. (Historical fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51557-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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GIRL IN PIECES

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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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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