A sympathetic and ultimately hopeful story of strength.

CHIARA IN THE DARK

From the West 44 YA Verse series

An aspiring figure skater is shaken when she begins having violent and unwanted thoughts in this powerful novel in verse for reluctant readers.

In many ways, Chiara Benedetti is an ordinary high school senior. She and her best friend, Olivia, spend their free time at the ice skating rink; Chiara dreams of skating at the collegiate level. To earn some money, Chiara begins babysitting for her downstairs neighbors, the Guptas, caring for their adorable toddler, Julie. Everything changes when Chiara suddenly begins to imagine hurting Julie while she’s in her care. Terrified that she’ll get into trouble, Chiara doesn’t know what to do about her intrusive thoughts. It’s not until her parents find her a therapist that what is happening becomes clear: She is struggling with OCD. Chhabra details the extensive and often grueling treatments Chiara goes through with compassion while realistically depicting both Chiara’s pain and her immigrant parents’ struggle to understand why their child’s personality has altered. As readers follow Chiara’s story, which is narrated in clear, direct, first-person poems, they will be heartened to discover that treatment options are out there, and they will be rooting for her as she learns to manage her illness. Chiara’s mother is Indian, and her father is Italian.

A sympathetic and ultimately hopeful story of strength. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9785-9596-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic.

ALL OUR HIDDEN GIFTS

An Irish teen grapples with past misdeeds and newfound ties to magic.

When 16-year-old Maeve discovers a deck of tarot cards stashed with a mixtape of moody indie music from 1990, she starts giving readings for her classmates at her all-girls private school. Though her shame over dumping her strange friend Lily during an attempt to climb the social ladder at St. Bernadette’s is still palpable, it doesn’t stop her from trying to use the tarot in her favor to further this goal. However, after speaking harsh words to Lily during a reading, Maeve is horrified when her former friend later disappears. As she struggles to understand the forces at play within her, classmate Fiona proves to be just the friend Maeve needs. Detailed, interesting characters carry this contemporary story of competing energy and curses. Woven delicately throughout are chillingly eerie depictions of the Housekeeper, a figure who shows up on an extra card in the deck, echoing the White Lady legend from Irish folklore. Even more disturbing is an organization of young people led by a homophobic but charismatic figurehead intent on provoking backlash against Ireland’s recent civil rights victories. Most characters are White; Fiona is biracial, with a Filipina mother and White Irish father. Roe, Maeve’s love interest and Lily’s sibling, is a bisexual, genderqueer person who is a target for intolerance in their small city of Kilbeg.

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1394-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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