VANDAL

Will has grown up with the shadow of his older brother’s violence always looming. Jason has been in and out of trouble for years, always repentant but never able or willing to reform. Will copes by loving his little sister and cultivating his skill with the guitar, a practice that has led to his job as lead guitarist for a remarkably successful KISS tribute band. The September after Jason gets out of juvie, an excess of brotherly feeling prompts Will to offer Jason a job as roadie, an offer he immediately regrets and which inevitably leads to a disaster that both Will and the reader see coming. The enjoyment of this tale is in its telling, and Will’s wry, self-deprecating voice and the snort-inducing details of his career with KISS FOREVER draw the reader in effortlessly. Running throughout are Will’s musings on Jason and his family, his efforts to understand his affection for the brother who has caused only trouble and pain candidly presented. Simmons resists easy narrative outs, presenting both Will and readers with the full emotional complexity of a difficult relationship in fine, understated fashion. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59643-070-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Thoughtful and entertaining.

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BETTER TOGETHER

Estranged sisters plan a scheme à la The Parent Trap but are met with an unexpected twist.

Eighteen-year-old Siri Maza from New Jersey is mired in anger and uncertainty after an injury cuts short her burgeoning ballet career. At her mother’s insistence, she agrees to attend a wellness retreat in Colorado—and crashes into a barely remembered long-lost sister she’s been told was an imaginary friend. After bombing spectacularly onstage, 20-year-old Los Angeles comedian Jamie Federov is happy to escape to the Rediscover Yourself retreat, even if it is one of several conditions set by her father upon her moving back home. Jamie’s shocked when she encounters the younger sister she hasn’t seen since their parents split up 14 years ago. Spotting an opportunity for comedic inspiration, Jamie hatches a plot for the two to temporarily swap places and confront their parents. Only when they’re on their respective flights home do they realize that they’ve been transformed to look like one another. The relative ease with which various characters accept the magical element strains belief, but the sisters’ growth over the course of the story is convincing and satisfying. With help from their love interests, Pakistani Zarar and Filipina Dawn—both of whom are well developed and endearing—Jamie and Siri, who are White, confront their individual flaws and strengths and learn to accept the work inherent to healthy familial relationships.

Thoughtful and entertaining. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76006-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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