Glorifying individual achievement without addressing the complex, ongoing legacy of race and racism, this naïve fable fails...

WIREWALKER

Clarence, 14, saw his African-American mother shot and killed in their Richmond, Virginia, home; three years later, he and his hard-drinking, Irish-American dad live off Johnnyprice’s dogfighting and crack-dealing business.

Delivering crack to Johnnyprice’s customers, Clarence dreams of escape, of becoming a superhero like Batman, taking comfort in the memory of his mother and his bond with a customer’s affectionate Great Dane. Working for Johnnyprice’s higher-paying competitor, Y, brings risks and rewards. In high school, perennial A student Clarence impresses a kindly black teacher, who asks him to mentor a troubled white boy. (How he earns his A’s under hellish conditions isn’t described.) With some missteps, Clarence begins to shape his destiny. After a powerful first half, increasingly one-dimensional characterization hampers the novel. Whether evil or angelic, victim or victimizer, all share a profound isolation, and race is treated as irrelevant to outcome. Clarence is abused by his father, ignored or rejected by relatives. Though both mentor and mentee, he lacks peer friendships. Likewise, the neighborhood—populated by addicts and dealers—seems adrift from the rest of the world. Current cultural referents, such as cellphones, are puzzlingly absent. Crack’s the drug of choice; policing and the criminal justice system play no role. Without history, community, or culture, it’s a jungle or prison—here, decency resides only in individuals.

Glorifying individual achievement without addressing the complex, ongoing legacy of race and racism, this naïve fable fails to convince. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01646-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure

CITY OF LOST SOULS

From the Mortal Instruments series , Vol. 5

What with the race to save Jace from the new Big Bad, wonderful secondary characters get short shrift.

Clary's long-lost brother Sebastian, raised to be an evil overlord by their father (and Jace's foster father), has kidnapped Jace. While the many young (or young-appearing) protagonists want Jace back, only Clary swoons in constant self-absorption; her relationship angst, resolved two books ago, can't carry volume five the way it did earlier installments. The heroic, metaphysical and, yes, romantic travails of Simon, the daylight-walking, Jewish vampire with the Mark of Cain, would have made a more solid core for a second trilogy then Clary's continuing willingness to put her boyfriend ahead of the survival of the entire planet. The narrative zips from one young protagonist to another, as they argue with the werewolf council, summon angels and demons, fight the "million little paper cuts" of homophobia, and always, always negotiate sexual tension thick enough to cut with an iratze. Only the Clary perspective drags, focusing on her wardrobe instead of her character development, while the faux-incestuous vibes of earlier volumes give way to the real thing. The action once again climaxes in a tense, lush battle sequence just waiting for digital cinematic treatment. Clever prose is sprinkled lightly with Buffy-esque quips ("all the deadly sins....Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking").

Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure . (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1686-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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A dynamic story of grief, loyalty, and, finally, some cheerworthy victories.

GIRLS LIKE ME

With her father dead, her friends being yanked away, and fatphobia battering her, a teen finds affection and strength with a boy she meets online.

Fifteen-year-old Shay lost Dad a year ago, and she’s not close to her stepmother, who seems only to wish that Shay were thinner. At school, nemesis Kelly leaves oinking stuffed pigs on her chair and changes Shay’s cell ringtone to pig sounds. Best friends Dash and Boots are being stolen: Boots by brain cancer, which is killing her, and Dash by his father, who sends him to military school for being gay. Shay connects with a boy online (screen name “Godotwait4me”)—until their growing closeness infuriates Kelly so much she launches a website she calls Get the Pig Back in Its Pen, dedicated to breaking them up. StVil’s verse prose is inventive and alive, sometimes cryptic, sometimes lurching, sometimes stunning; it rhymes only rarely yet with the effect of a gut punch (“Car. Speed. Head. / Docs. Tried. Dad. Dead”). Food-based figures of speech are gorgeous; unfortunately, they underscore the stereotype of Shay as a fat comfort-eater, but refreshingly, the plot has no weight-loss arc. Shay and Godot’s text threads hum with mutual attraction, high wit, and each one’s self-defeating fragilities. Shay’s race is undesignated, although she looks white on the cover.

A dynamic story of grief, loyalty, and, finally, some cheerworthy victories. (Verse fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-70674-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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