A well-written and engaging tale of a new friendship featuring a compelling cast.

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Two tweens form a rewarding friendship while riding the bus together.

In this middle-grade novel, Gilah meets Guillermo when the bus she is riding hits the boy and his bike and she is the only one who notices. With his bike out of commission, Guillermo starts riding the bus to school, and their initial connection gradually warms into a friendship and a growth opportunity for both of them. Gilah is an avid break dancer who is practicing a special piece to perform at her upcoming bat mitzvah, along with her Torah portion. She is also preparing a speech that will allow her to express herself without breaking the rules of communication she has struggled to learn. Guillermo is a poet, slowly building up the nerve to share his verse with others—even if he first does so by writing a poem instead of completing his math assignment—and finding a place for himself after his family’s move to Washington, D.C. In chapters that alternate between the two characters’ narration—Gilah’s story is in prose, while Guillermo’s account is in verse—they pursue their own goals and offer different perspectives on their shared experiences. Gilah invites Guillermo to her bat mitzvah, where a misunderstanding robs her of the opportunity to present the dance she had planned. But she is able to perform the work later on her own terms and shows up to celebrate Guillermo at his first poetry reading.

Ehrenberg and debut author López have brought the two characters’ interior and exterior lives into vivid relief. Gilah’s narration is filled with elegant metaphors that are never overdone, like her comparison of the Torah’s omitted vowels to the way her mind works differently: “I think that proves that ‘harder to read’ does not equal ‘broken.’ ” Gilah is on the autism spectrum, which will be obvious to readers from the opening pages. This condition goes largely unmentioned in the narrative, instead serving as a textbook example of show, don’t tell. Readers get an intimate portrayal of how hard she works to exist in a neurotypical world and how much easier she finds it when those who love her adjust their own behaviors to meet her needs. The poetic forms of Guillermo’s sections—occasionally in rhyme, more often free verse and, in one case, an acrostic—are necessarily sparer than Gilah’s detailed prose but serve equally well to bring readers into his mind. Guillermo is developing independence while remaining connected to his close-knit clan, discovering the confidence to share his work with the public, and defining his own role at his family’s bakery and in his new community. An abundance of local details brings the book’s Washington setting to life. The strong secondary characters, including Gilah’s gymnast younger sister, Miri; her Hebrew tutor, Josh; and Guillermo’s math teacher, Mr. Whitaker, are multilayered and fully realized. Themes of Judaism, identity, self-determination, and family are seamlessly woven into the story, making for a solidly plotted and well-paced novel with emotional resonance throughout.

A well-written and engaging tale of a new friendship featuring a compelling cast.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73655-735-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PJ Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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Necessary, important, honest, loving, and true.


A gut-wrenching look at how addiction affects a family and a town.

Emory Ward, 16, has long been invisible. Everyone in the town of Mill Haven knows her as the rich girl; her workaholic parents see her as their good child. Then Emory and her 17-year-old brother, Joey, are in a car accident in which a girl dies. Joey wasn’t driving, but he had nearly overdosed on heroin. When Joey returns from rehab, his parents make Emory his keeper and try to corral his addictions with a punitive list of rules. Emory rebels in secret, stealing small items and hooking up with hot neighbor Gage, but her drama class and the friends she gradually begins to be honest with help her reach her own truth. Glasgow, who has personal experience with substance abuse, bases this story on the classic play Our Town but with a twist: The characters learn to see and reach out to each other. The cast members, especially Emory and Joey, are exceptionally well drawn in both their struggles and their joys. Joey’s addiction is horrifying and dark, but it doesn’t define who he is. The portrayal of small-town life and its interconnectedness also rings true. Emory’s family is White; there is racial diversity in the supporting cast, and an important adult mentor is gay. Glasgow mentions in her author’s note that over 20 million Americans struggle with substance abuse; she includes resources for teens seeking help.

Necessary, important, honest, loving, and true. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-70804-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A suspenseful mystery diminished by outdated gender stereotypes.


A murder in a boarding school leads a teen sleuth down a dangerous path.

When Luke and his roommate, Oscar, snuck out of their dorm room after hours to hook up with two girls in the woods, they did not expect to get involved in a murder. Dean Heckler’s young wife’s body is found the morning after, near the place the teens were hanging out. Fear of being expelled prevents them from confessing their presence around the time of the murder—but when Oscar becomes a suspect, Luke starts his own investigation to prove his best friend’s innocence. Fortunately, three years earlier Luke had escaped a kidnapping using survival skills learned from his former–POW grandfather, the same skills he now needs if he wants to find the true murderer and get out of this situation alive. This whodunit has enough twists and red herrings to make for an intriguing mystery if readers are prepared to suspend disbelief at how frequently adult characters act with implausible negligence. The book is also weighed down by a haze of misogyny when describing both girls at the school as well as the murdered woman, who remains a vapid, one-note seductress throughout. Luke’s vague and perfunctory attempts at challenging his male friends in their sexist views are not enough to clear the chauvinist miasma. Main characters are White.

A suspenseful mystery diminished by outdated gender stereotypes. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72822-229-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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