A heartfelt, grim glimpse of addiction’s fallout.

HIGH

Vivid realism reaches impressive heights in this novel in verse.

Ninth grader Ceti is a star soccer player struggling with a future she can barely imagine and a drug-abusing mother. Her bleak past includes living in a truck, and though memories of her grandfather are warm, his absence stings. Ceti’s history of strained friendships resulting from the deception and emotional upheaval of living with an addicted parent contrast with the vital joy and respite of the soccer field and the attention of a supportive coach. The emotional heart of the story is expressed in the poem “Jigsaw Puzzle,” in which Ceti weighs the limits of her agency. Ceti’s romantic interest, Will, is cued as Afro-Latinx and her best friend, Ruby, is Black and White. As a White girl, Ceti’s perceptions of race—e.g., that Ruby has it easier because she’s biracial, and her lack of reflection on her mother’s nickname for her, Indian Girl—seem naïve but may reflect the social-emotional limits of a young person raised in a traumatic environment. Impulse control issues and a crisis at home jeopardize her faith in the future she’s working toward. The emotional complexity makes this a good option for serious readers, with each tightly crafted poem delivering a shudderingly beautiful piece to the story. The use of white space and font size and concrete poetic techniques throughout capture the searing moments that define Ceti’s perceived options and powerful journey.

A heartfelt, grim glimpse of addiction’s fallout. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64603-170-2

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Fitzroy Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s...

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THE POET X

Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.

Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance.

Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266280-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams.

K-POP CONFIDENTIAL

Who doesn’t want to be a K-pop idol?

Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan—but secretly, because she fears it’s a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee’s fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry’s actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay.

A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63993-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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