A powerful story about misperceptions, reality, and the lives lived in between.

WHEN YOU LOOK LIKE US

A high school junior fights to find his sister before times runs out.

Black 16-year-old Jayson Murphy hopes to make it one step closer to leaving the Ducts, a paycheck-to-paycheck neighborhood in Newport News, Virginia. Jay does his best to make his paternal grandmother, MiMi, proud. After his father passed from cancer and his mom’s struggles with addiction put her behind bars, MiMi stepped in for Jay and his older sister, Nic. While Jay tries to ease MiMi’s stress, Nic stays out all hours with her shady, drug-dealing boyfriend. Jay is tired of covering for Nic; after receiving an unintelligible call, he decides this time is the last. But after a few days, he realizes she is missing. Though his White best friend from school and the Black preacher’s daughter he teaches Sunday school with are willing to help, Jay has trouble trusting others to care as much as he does. This deftly written tale peels back the layers of a much-maligned neighborhood and its vibrant, complex residents—and exposes the dark, violent underbelly of White America. Ultimately, Jay’s community proves to be stronger and more powerful than any bad reputation. Harris’ book shines a light on the repercussions of institutionalized racism on Black communities and the plight of missing Black girls. Readers will ponder this story long after they turn the final page.

A powerful story about misperceptions, reality, and the lives lived in between. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-294589-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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