The brevity and format of this family drama may appeal to reluctant readers, but the story itself isn’t completely engaging.

KNIGHTS OF SUBURBIA

Seventeen-year-old Henry navigates difficult territory when his adoptive father decides to run for local office just as his older brother, Simon, returns from serving in an unnamed war, bringing his girlfriend, Gracie Lyn Mahdavi, and their baby daughter home with him.

Henry and his twin sister, Helena, experienced a safe and relatively uneventful upbringing after being adopted as young children by Dr. Knights, a school superintendent, and his wife, who died soon afterward. But now, as an older teen, Henry feels invisible to his dad. Simon’s struggle with what seems to be PTSD and his problematic use of alcohol and drugs to cope are sympathetically described, and perhaps due to this focus, Simon is the most extensively developed of all the characters, who otherwise feel one dimensional. Henry and Helena’s adoption and their father’s political ambitions are interesting details, but they are not fully explored. This novel geared for struggling readers depicts Henry’s family’s story in brief passages in verse that make for a quick-paced and accessible read, though the overuse of italics detracts from their ability to effectively cue any particular emphasis. The Knights family and other characters seem to be white by default. Gracie Lyn is Muslim and from Atlantic City.

The brevity and format of this family drama may appeal to reluctant readers, but the story itself isn’t completely engaging. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5383-8274-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s...

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THE POET X

Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.

Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance.

Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266280-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Gorgeous and bloody, tender and violent, elegant, precise, and passionate; above all, completely addicting

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THREE DARK CROWNS

From the Three Dark Crowns series , Vol. 1

The opener to a pitch-black epic fantasy series horrifically upends the bonds of sisterhood.

Every generation, magically gifted triplet girls are born to rule Fennbirn, and it is the duty of each young queen to try to murder the others once they come of age. But this time only the elemental Mirabella has yet displayed any power, as the naturalist Arsinoe and poisoner Katherine are deemed weak and giftless. Although kindhearted Mirabella shows some reluctance to kill, both headstrong Arsinoe and abused Katherine are more than ready to employ any tactic to live...and win. Blake has constructed an insular, all-white, matriarchal society from convincing intimate details. As the personal lives, loves, and betrayals of the three queens are manipulated by their supporting factions, the intricate machinations of the plot never overwhelm the vivid, complicated characters of the queens and those closest to them; while it’s impossible not to sympathize with each, it is equally difficult to root for any of them. The omniscient third-person present-tense narration, switching every chapter among various players preparing for, scheming about, and even fleeing the upcoming ritual competition, employs sumptuous, poetic prose (if little of Blake’s trademark wit) with an odd detachment, creating a fablelike distance from even the grisly, shocking climax.

Gorgeous and bloody, tender and violent, elegant, precise, and passionate; above all, completely addicting . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238543-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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