A charming, at times brutally funny peek inside a slacker’s mind.

A pot-smoking slacker with a habit of writing half-songs meets his long-lost father in this droll, moving novel.

“I’m lazy, and I’m a coward, but I’ll do pretty much anything if a girl is watching.” So proclaims Austin Methune, a white 16-year-old with an energetic narrative voice. During a disastrous attempt to woo a group of girls, he manages to get his mother’s boyfriend’s expensive mandolin destroyed by a bitter bully. Austin receives an ultimatum: either go to military school or attend summer school and tutoring sessions to pass algebra and join the boyfriend’s lawn-care business to pay off the remaining debt. Distractions come in the form of Shane Tyler, Austin’s musical idol and, it turns out, longtime absent father. Austin chooses to reconnect with his father while keeping it a secret from his mother. “I have a mission! I have a goal, something to focus on!” Rubens writes with a deft comic hand. Though Austin appears a shirker, his self-deprecating remarks and melodramatic wit will hook readers. As he neglects his mother, friends, and obligations for his father, music, and loving his tutor, Austin finds it hard to abandon his carefree new lifestyle. The further Austin messes up, the harder he falls. Still, Austin’s struggle to do good makes for a fun time.

A charming, at times brutally funny peek inside a slacker’s mind. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-09667-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016



From the Heartstopper series

Short and sweet.

When Charlie returns home from in-patient anorexia treatment in a psychiatric ward, he and his older sister, Tori, navigate a difficult Christmas with their family in this Heartstopper novella.

Tori thought her parents might learn to open up after Charlie started treatment, but they—especially Mum—still avoid discussing anything serious. Now that Charlie is home from the hospital, all Tori wants is to spend time with him, but the pressure of the holiday increases family tensions and threatens to drive Charlie away. Set during unexplored moments of Volume 4 of the Heartstopper graphic-novel series, this three-chapter novella zooms in on Christmas Day. Each chapter moves the story forward from a different perspective, shifting from Tori to Charlie to their 7-year-old brother, Oliver. Nick, Charlie’s boyfriend, makes an appearance as a source of comfort, but the conflict focuses on Charlie and his family. As Tori tries to support Charlie, she wrestles with guilt and loneliness. Meanwhile, Charlie and his mum, who both want a normal holiday, keep clashing. Although the story handles heavy themes of mental illness, Oseman balances the fraught emotions with tender moments and a hopeful but honest outlook on recovery that emphasizes the value of therapy. There will be greater emotional impact for those familiar with the original stories, but as a bonus entry, this novella has high appeal for devoted fans. Occasional illustrations add to the charm.

Short and sweet. (resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781338885132

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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