Above all, this is a necessary, universal story about feeling different and enduring prejudices, and it’s full of love,...

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IF I WAS YOUR GIRL

After surviving a brutal attack, Amanda starts school in a new town. She plans to stay focused and get through senior year, but kind, attractive Grant causes a distraction that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for her deepest secret.

Russo has written a story that many trans teens—and adults—have been wanting: a sweet, believable romance that stokes the fires of hope without devolving into saccharine perfection or horrific tragedy. There is friction, from fear born of the violence Amanda has experienced, from dangers to girls that most boys don’t feel, but Russo hasn’t written yet another horror story that readers must endure along with its protagonist. There’s confusion, levity, awkwardness, like any teen’s story. There is friction from within Amanda. As her friend and transmother, or mentor, Virginia, says, she’s “won the genetic lottery when it comes to passing.” When they’re deciding how to spend an evening, Amanda notes that Virginia’s jaw is a little too strong, shoulders a little too wide to keep them both safe from detection. This is just one of many conflicting, confusing truths that help reflect some trans people's fear of violence and hostility in this moment in time—including the ones rightly called out when coming from others—such as the expectation of a perfect physical reflection of one's truest gender.

Above all, this is a necessary, universal story about feeling different and enduring prejudices, and it’s full of love, hope, engaging writing, and truth . (Fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07840-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Vivid, chilling, and important.

NONE SHALL SLEEP

Two 18-year-olds with traumatic pasts become entangled in a high-stakes manhunt for a serial killer targeting teenagers.

Emma Lewis isn’t your average psychology undergrad (and not just because she has a buzz cut). Two and a half years ago, she escaped a serial killer’s clutches and then helped the authorities apprehend him. Now a student at Ohio State, she’s been recruited for her unique qualifications by an agent in the FBI’s Behavioral Science department to spend the summer interviewing juvenile offenders. Alongside trainee Travis Bell, whose late father was killed while apprehending one of their subjects, Emma reluctantly ventures into the minds of teenage killers—and must confront her own past when one of the subjects offers unexpected insight into the motives of a new killer known as the Butcher. Set in the early 1980s, narrated in present tense, and told through Emma’s perspective as well as others’ (including the Butcher’s), the tightly plotted story moves inexorably forward with shocking twists alongside clear, applicable descriptions of the cognitive behavioral strategies Emma uses to navigate her PTSD. The narrative is critical of law enforcement work, emphasizing its psychological toll, and the '80s cultural references are handled with a light touch. Emma is white while Travis is cued as biracial (Mexican American and white); although most secondary characters appear white, two key figures are people of color.

Vivid, chilling, and important. (author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49783-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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