A funny, heartwarming YA novel.

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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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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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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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