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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A great read offering entertainment, encouragement, and plenty to reflect upon.

SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND

A gay teen contends with time travel—and homophobia through the decades.

All Cuban American Luis wants is to be prom king with his boyfriend, but tiny upstate New York boarding school Antic Springs Academy, with its strict, Christian code of conduct, won’t even let them hold hands in public. After a disastrous prom committee meeting at which his attempt to make the event welcoming of queer couples is rejected by the principal, Luis gets quite literally knocked into the past—specifically, ASA in the year 1985. There he meets Chaz, a Black student who attended the school at the same time as Luis’ parents and who died under mysterious circumstances after being bullied for his sexuality. Luis now faces a choice between changing the past to help Chaz and preserving his own future existence. Fortunately, he has Ms. Silverthorn, a Black English teacher and beloved mentor, who offers him support in both timelines. The narrative explores the impacts of homophobia and being closeted, remaining optimistic without shying away from the more brutal aspects. Luis is a multifaceted character with an engaging voice whose flaws are confronted and examined throughout. The solid pacing and pleasant, fluid prose make this a page-turner. Luis’ boyfriend is cued as Chinese American, and his best friend is nonbinary; there is some diversity in ethnicity and sexuality in background characters, although the school is predominantly White.

A great read offering entertainment, encouragement, and plenty to reflect upon. (author's note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0710-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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