A powerful, raw must-read told through the lens of a Black boy ensnared by our broken criminal justice system.

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DEAR JUSTYCE

The deck is stacked against incarcerated 16-year-old Quan as he faces up to 20 years in prison in this sequel to the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin (2017).

With his father in prison, Quan works hard to excel in school, avoid his mother’s abusive boyfriend, and keep his siblings from going hungry. Bright but burdened, Quan eventually begins committing petty crimes and lands in a youth detention center. Through Quan, Stone brilliantly portrays the voices of incarcerated Black youth, their trauma, hopelessness, and awareness of how fraught and fragile their futures are due to racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Quan sees a 12-year-old Black boy locked up for a year for merely associating with gang members while a 17-year-old White boy who stabbed his father eight times serves only 60 days. But Quan isn’t left to fight for his freedom alone; his best friend, Justyce, makes sure of that. Quan’s story is eloquently told in part through letters he writes to Justyce, who is attending college at Yale. Fans of the previous volume and new readers alike won’t want to put down this unforgettable volume until they learn Quan’s fate.

A powerful, raw must-read told through the lens of a Black boy ensnared by our broken criminal justice system. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984829-66-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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