This resonant tale about a poetry lover features a unique voice and a hopeful ending.

BEYOND POETRY

A Black teenager rises above tragedy in this coming-of-age novel.

It’s 1995, and life isn’t easy for 14-year-old Leonard Gerard Robinson Jr., known to everyone as Junior. Sports aren’t his thing, which makes it tough to fit in at his school and in his North Philadelphia neighborhood. Junior prefers reading books and writing poetry in his beloved journals, much to the delight of his mother, Sandy, and the chagrin of his father, known as Senior. But Junior finds much-needed solace in words—others’ and his own—especially after a stray bullet ended his younger brother Lawrence’s life the year before. Still mired in grief, Junior’s parents deal with a marriage that’s on the rocks (they were planning to file for divorce on the day Lawrence was shot), and Senior tends to take his anger out on his son. The family moves to a new neighborhood in South Philly for a fresh start, but when Junior is expelled from his high school for standing up to a bully, home life becomes even tenser. Neither of Junior’s parents finished high school, so his graduation is their shared dream. When Junior enters Medgar Evers Secondary, an empathetic school secretary named Casey and a driven teacher called Brother Gay see potential in the angry but intelligent teen and push him to find a life outside of his neighborhood. Jarelle’s novel pulses with vibrant descriptions and a love for hip-hop stars like Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony. Junior’s original poetry begins every chapter, deftly setting the scene for the stories to come, and all the poems are available as a collection at the end of the book. Though at times the prose gets repetitive—Junior’s home haircut and secondhand clothes are mentioned multiple times when once would have sufficed—the protagonist’s journey is compelling and addictively readable, the characters rich and nuanced, and the setting nostalgic for those who remember and illuminating for those who don’t.

This resonant tale about a poetry lover features a unique voice and a hopeful ending.

Pub Date: June 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73-622481-6

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2021

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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