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

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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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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.

GEESE ARE NEVER SWANS

Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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