Thoughtful and brimming with justified teen angst, Kearney’s fast-paced tale offers illuminating insights into the perils...

WHEN YOU NEVER SAID GOODBYE

AN ADOPTEE'S SEARCH FOR HER BIRTH MOTHER: A NOVEL IN POEMS AND JOURNAL ENTRIES

A college-age adoptee searches for her birth mother.

In the final novel-in-verse installment of her identity-probing trilogy (The Girl in the Mirror, 2012, etc.), Kearney’s scrappy protagonist, Liz McLane, heads to the Big Apple in search of answers. Ostensibly there to study poetry at NYU, Liz is also in search of her birth mother, who gave her up for adoption there when she was an infant. Liz is more conscious than many a white girl of being “white as paper. Church-white / with monk-brown curls.” One of the strengths of Kearney’s first-person tale is the normalized diversity of friends and loved ones Liz draws around her on her quest, dating a boy with “half- / Mexican skin” and hanging with friends of differing racial and ethnic backgrounds, who may be gay, or—like Liz—also dealing with the loss of a parent. Another highlight is how Liz’s study of writing affords Kearney the opportunity to experiment with poetic form and include useful tips for budding poets like Liz, such as “When the subject / feels dangerous, form is your friend.” Legal and historical hurdles Liz encounters throughout her search only spur her to dig even deeper into her past, propelling the narrative to a surprising conclusion.

Thoughtful and brimming with justified teen angst, Kearney’s fast-paced tale offers illuminating insights into the perils and rewards of self-discovery. (Verse fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-89255-479-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Persea Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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    Best Books Of 2018

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

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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