Love and death, secrets and honesty: a highly readable love story of two girls.

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WHO I WAS WITH HER

Rival cross-country high school athletes Corinne and Maggie are lovers but have kept their relationship a secret; when Maggie dies, Corinne is left to grieve alone.

Corinne and her parents moved to North Carolina from Colorado two and a half years before this, her senior year. It’s been a culture shift for Corinne, made more difficult by her parents’ divorce due to her mother’s alcoholism. Running has been a way for her to fit in, and she shares that love with her best friend, Julia. What she hasn’t shared with Julia—or anybody else—is her relationship with Maggie. However, Maggie’s brother, Dylan, did know and, after her death, introduces her to Elissa, an ex-girlfriend of Maggie’s. As Corinne grieves, she must also grapple with her future and whether she wants to come out. The story is told in alternating before/after timelines, so readers experience Corinne’s romance with Maggie as well as the aftermath of her death. Suspense is ramped up well as the plot develops to reveal who else knew about but kept their relationship a secret, why, and at what cost. Clever typography makes delightful small prose poems within the text. The focus on bisexuality is welcome, and asexuality is discussed. Corinne and Maggie are White; several secondary characters are brown-skinned (one is cued by name as South Asian).

Love and death, secrets and honesty: a highly readable love story of two girls. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297838-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A resounding success.

CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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