A funny, heartwarming YA novel.

MY CRUNCHY LIFE

In Kerick’s (The Weekend Bucket List, 2018, etc.) YA novel, two teens navigate gender and other identities.

Julian Mendez—or Julia as she hopes one day to be known at school and everywhere else—recently tried to kill herself with a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol. Everyone at school assumes it was a cry for help (including Julia), so now she’s seeing a therapist who specializes in trans teens. Julia is placed on puberty blockers, and her therapist recommends that she join a club and try to make some friends in order to “expand [her] social base” before the treatment takes its effect on her body. At a meeting of the Rights for Every Human Organization, Julia meets Kale Oswald, another youngster going through a transformation—from nonhippie to hippie. Julia isn’t much impressed by Kale’s recently acquired dreadlocks and tie-dye, but Kale finds that he is feeling an unexpected attraction to Julia, whom he perceives as a male. Could Kale be gay, he wonders? As fate further entangles the pair, they discover that they are more similar than they originally thought…but can the relationship survive the revelation that Julian is really Julia? Kerick’s narration toggles between Julian’s and Kale’s perspectives. Both brim with angst and snark: “Since I left my makeup bag on my bed in the frenzied morning rush,” Julia tells her unwanted therapist, “I had no powder to do touch-ups, so my face is as greasy as Colonel Sanders’s crispiest chicken breast. Don’t you like the way the suckage of my day came full circle, right back to my late start?” Despite its serious topic, Kerick eschews the melodrama common in today’s YA lit, opting instead for a lighter, jocular tone that mostly focuses on perennial teen issues: student rivalries, bullying, families, and crushes. Julian’s and Kale’s situations and feelings of discombobulation are strikingly relatable. The book ends up about where the reader expects it will, but the well-drawn and emotionally engaging characters make this novel a fine place for a teen to pass the time.

A funny, heartwarming YA novel.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64080-393-0

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A celebratory song of the sea.

THE HIGHEST TIDE

A shrimpy 13-year-old with a super-sized passion for marine life comes of age during a summer of discovery on the tidal flats of Puget Sound.

Miles O’Malley—Squid Boy to his friends—doesn’t mind being short. It’s other things that keep him awake at night, like his parents’ talk of divorce and his increasingly lustful thoughts about the girl next door. Mostly, though, it’s the ocean’s siren call that steals his sleep. During one of his moonlit kayak excursions, Miles comes across the rarest sighting ever documented in the northern Pacific: the last gasp of a Giant Squid. Scientists are stunned. The media descend. As Miles continues to stumble across other oddball findings, including two invasive species that threaten the eco-balance of Puget Sound, a nearby new-age cult’s interest in Miles prompts a headline in USA Today: Kid Messiah? Soon tourists are flocking to the tidal flats, crushing crustaceans underfoot and painting their bodies with black mud. Dodging disingenuous journalists, deluded disciples and the death-throes of his parents’ marriage, Miles tries to recapture some semblance of normality. He reads up on the G-spot and the Kama Sutra to keep pace with his pals’ bull sessions about sex (hilariously contributing “advanced” details that gross the other boys out). But Miles’s aquatic observations cannot be undone, and as summer draws to a close, inhabitants of Puget Sound prepare for a national blitzkrieg of media and scientific attention and the highest tide in 40 years, all of which threatens everything Miles holds dear. On land, the rickety plot could have used some shoring up. Miles is just too resourceful for the reader to believe his happiness—or that of those he loves—is ever at stake. But when Miles is on the water, Lynch’s first novel becomes a stunning light show, both literal, during phosphorescent plankton blooms, and metaphorical, in the poetic fireworks Lynch’s prose sets off as he describes his clearly beloved Puget Sound.

A celebratory song of the sea.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-605-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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