An ambitious novel that attempts to explore important subjects about race and identity in the modern world.

READ REVIEW

WHEN WE SPEAK OF NOTHING

Two black London-based teen boys navigate the complexities of racism, class differences, and identity in this intricate coming-of-age tale.

Abu and Karl are twinlike in appearance, but their lives could not be more different. While Abu hails from a stable two-parent home, Karl’s family life is shrouded in mystery, so he spends most of his time as an adopted son within Abu’s family. Together, the boys survive bullies, being beaten up, discrimination, and discovering sexuality. Life for both teens changes irreparably when Karl finds a letter addressed to his mother from an uncle whom he never knew. After discovering that his father is alive and living in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Karl leaves London with his uncle to visit Africa and discover his family and heritage. Popoola’s (Breach, 2016, etc.) novel has all the requisite threads for a completely engrossing book, but so much is crammed into its pages that the story feels like a mess of tangles rather than a neatly stitched product. The reader barely gets to know Karl before he is off to Africa—a decision so rushed that it is sapped of dramatic heft—and so reader investment in his problems suffers. The stream-of-consciousness narration jars the reader out of the narrative and prevents the characters from becoming fully formed people as opposed to character studies.

An ambitious novel that attempts to explore important subjects about race and identity in the modern world. (Fiction 14-18)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-911115-45-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A searing portrayal of a teen navigating her dysfunctional family that leaves readers hopeful.

A LIFE, REDEFINED

From the Rowan Slone series , Vol. 1

Rowan Slone’s future looks promising, offering a much-needed escape from her small town in Appalachia.

But with new secrets revealed about her family and past, she must move forward or risk being pulled back into the very darkness she is trying to escape. A junior in high school, Rowan is on track to graduate and go to college, and she dreams of eventually becoming a veterinarian. The death of her baby brother 7 years ago sent her into a spiral of self-harm, but she managed to stop cutting herself a few years ago. Things start to look up when she is paired with her longtime crush, Mike Anderson, for their biology project. There are hints of a budding romance between the two, and Mike even asks her to prom. However, life at home takes a turn for the worse, and Rowan finds herself reaching for a razor. With everything she has suffered, readers will find themselves cheering for Rowan, hoping she makes it through. Meyer (The Reformation of Marli Meade, 2018, etc.) astutely captures the horrors of self-harm and domestic violence. However, the story would have benefited from more character development of the protagonist’s family and other secondary characters. All main characters are assumed to be white; Rowan’s father’s racism is explored to some degree.

A searing portrayal of a teen navigating her dysfunctional family that leaves readers hopeful. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64397-012-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: BHC Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Girls Can't Be Knights

From the Spirit Knights series , Vol. 1

The start of a new YA series features a teen orphan and a protective brotherhood of Spirit Knights.

Fifteen-year-old Claire Terdan lives in a group foster home in Portland, Oregon. Six years ago, her family died in a house fire, and her only dependable friend since has been a boy her age named Drew. One day in school, after she punches a bully who mocks her, the principal suspends her for a day. She sneaks out of school and into town only to be accosted by several cats and dogs. Meanwhile, at the nearby Oregon Historical Society, a man named Justin arrives on his white horse, Tariel. He’s there, dressed in his green Spirit Knight armor, to borrow (some might say steal) an antique hat that has sentimental meaning to his mentor, Kurt. When he meets Claire, he offers her a ride home. Telling Justin she doesn’t have one, Claire ends up with him in Vancouver, Washington, at his family’s farm. There she meets his wife and two young daughters and eventually learns about the Palace, a magical, dormitory-style structure where Spirit Knights—a brotherhood that protects the world from ghostly, vengeful Phasms—dwell. Justin isn’t sure why Claire seems familiar until he learns that she’s the daughter of a dead Knight named Mark. French (Superheroes in Denim, 2016, etc.) establishes a crafty new fantasy series with a light smattering of genre fixtures, including talking animals, an enchanted pendant, and the firmly held belief that “Girls can’t be Knights.” Most of the narrative drama comes from grounded conflicts that teens should relate to, like Claire’s attraction to the older Justin and the lousy conditions of the “sanitized prison” that is her group home. Later scenes in which a detective named Avery physically assaults Claire are not for the faint-hearted. The upside for the tale’s heroine is that Justin and his family turn out to be perfect for her; despite early misgivings about them, she decides to “admire the example they set and be grateful for it.” The story should provide a heartwarming boost to anyone in a tough situation.

A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Pub Date: June 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-68063-030-5

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Myrddin Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more