THE LOST MARBLE NOTEBOOK OF FORGOTTEN GIRL & RANDOM BOY

Graceful. Searing. Haunting.

Trying to escape their broken worlds, two teens fall in love with devastating results.

The story begins with the first meeting between Random Boy and Forgotten Girl. They are never given proper names, and their labels indicate their template relationship—“insert your name here,” Jaskulka seems to invite readers. Forgotten Girl and Random Boy write their first-person free-verse poems in notebooks—this is the structure of the narrative—sharing their doubts, fears, hopes and needs as they fall in love and hope to erase the pain of their home lives. Readers learn that Forgotten Girl’s father has recently abandoned her, and Random Boy’s father physically abuses both Random Boy and his mother. Eventually the love between Random Boy and Forgotten Girl teeters into obsession and then worse. “As much as he loves / is as hard as he hits, / which makes the pain / reassuring / in a sick way.” Why Random Boy begins abusing Forgotten Girl and why she stays with him (ultimately getting herself out) is told with such complete believability that the descent seems almost foregone, given the wounds that each has brought to the relationship. Jaskulka’s narrative explores the hows and whys of an abusive teenage relationship with heartbreaking honesty, and her delicate touch renders the dark story even more powerful.

Graceful. Searing. Haunting. (Verse fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-426-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

OUT OF CHARACTER

Despite the well-meaning warmth, a wearying plod.

Can a 17-year-old with her first girlfriend prevent real-life folks from discovering her online fandoms?

Cass is proudly queer, happily fat, and extremely secretive about being a fan who role-plays on Discord. Back in middle school, she had what she calls a gaming addiction, playing “The Sims” so much her parents had to take the game away. Now, turning to her role-play friends to cope with her fighting parents, she worries that people will judge her for her fannishness and online life. To be fair, her grades are suffering. And sure, maybe she’s missed a college application deadline. Also, her mom has suddenly left Minneapolis and moved to Maine to be with a man she met online. But on the other hand, Cass is finally dating her amazingly cute longtime crush, Taylor. Pansexual Taylor is a gamer, a little bit punk, White like Cass, and so, so great—but she still can’t help comparing her to Rowan, Cass’ online best friend and role-playing ship partner. But Rowan doesn’t want to be a dirty little secret and doesn’t see why Cass can’t be honest about this part of her life. The inevitable train wreck of her lies looms on the horizon for months in an overlong morality play building to the climax that includes tidy resolutions to all the character arcs that are quite heartwarming but, in the case of Cass’ estranged mother, narratively unearned.

Despite the well-meaning warmth, a wearying plod. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-324332-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

WHAT TO SAY NEXT

A pleasant romance hindered by some curious choices.

Opposites attract after tragedy strikes.

Autistic white teen David Drucker spends every lunch period eating alone. When Indian-American popular girl Kit Lowell joins him one day she’s just looking for a quiet place to sit. It’s been one month since Kit’s father, a white dentist, died in a terrible car accident, but Kit is still flailing. As the two teens get to know one another and eat lunch together each day, they find themselves bringing out their own best qualities. Slowly but surely, romance blooms. There’s a warmth and ease to their relationship that the author captures effortlessly. Each chapter alternates perspective between Kit and David, and each one is fully rendered. The supporting characters are less well served, particularly Kit’s first-generation-immigrant mother. There are two major complications in Kit’s story, both involving her workaholic mother, and the lack of development defuses some potential fireworks. The central relationship is so charming and engaging that readers will tolerate the adequate tertiary characters. Less tolerable is a late-in-the-game reveal about Dr. Lowell’s accident that shifts the novel’s tone to a down note that juxtaposes poorly with everything that came before. The author pulls out in the final few pages, but it still leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

A pleasant romance hindered by some curious choices. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-53568-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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