SMACK

In a Carnegie Medal—winning novel (under the UK title, Junk) that cuts to the bone, Burgess puts a group of teenage runaways through four nightmarish years of heroin addiction. At 14, sweet-natured Tar leaves his small seaside town for Bristol to get away from his alcoholic, abusive parents. Gemma follows him to escape an infuriatingly repressive (to her, at least) home situation. Reveling in their newfound freedom, the two find shelter with a welcoming set of “anarchists” (punks) squatting in an abandoned building, then move on to live with Lily and Rob, a glamorous couple a year or so older who willingly share not just their squat, but their heroin too. Using multiple narrators, and only rarely resorting to violence or graphic details, Burgess (The Earth Giant, 1997, etc.) chronicles drug addiction’s slow, irresistible initial stages, capturing with devastating precision each teenager’s combination of innocence, self-deceit, and bravado; the subsequent loss of personality and self-respect; the increasingly unsuccessful efforts to maintain a semblance of control. Although the language is strong, Burgess never judges his characters’ behavior, nor pontificates; more profoundly persuasive than a lecture is the turn to prostitution to finance their habits, Tar’s casual comment, “If you don’t mind not reaching twenty there’s no argument against heroin, is there?” or a scene during which Lily nurses her baby while also probing her own chest for a vein to insert a needle. Based on actual people and incidents, this harrowing tale is as compellingly real as it is tragic. (glossary) (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5801-X

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.

THE BETRAYED

Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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