Well-done and thoughtful but relentless in pounding home a needed admonition.

TAKING AIM

POWER AND PAIN, TEENS AND GUNS

Editor Cart has gathered a collection of 13 short stories and three brief essays dealing with the often negative combination of teens and guns.

Most of the authors are well-known. After accidentally ending up with a handgun, Walter Dean Myers' somewhat troubled teen protagonist murders a drug dealer then goes into business for himself—turned criminal by the gun, a message repeated by Peter Johnson. Tim Wynne-Jones' teen uses a handgun to scare off a relentless bully, but another, mentally unstable teen gets the gun next—with evil intentions. Eric Shanower uses a series of ironic wordless cartoon panels to depict what Eros, god of love, does with increasingly serious weaponry. Francesca Lia Block has an unarmed elementary school teacher use only her sensitive language to disarm a potential school shooter. In Joyce Carol Oates’ overlong tale, a homely, jealous girl “accidentally” shoots her attractive sister's love interest with her stepfather's handgun. A much-needed humorous counterpoint by Ron Koertge portrays a pair of glib deer hiring a man to defend them against hunters. With few rather neutral exceptions, the message is solidly anti-gun, with many stories sharing a common theme: without an available gun, this crime wouldn't have happened. All of the tales are insightful, but the message is never especially subtle.

Well-done and thoughtful but relentless in pounding home a needed admonition. (Anthology. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-232735-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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