An often powerful intergenerational story that overcomes its commonplace life lessons.

COMMUNITY SERVICE ON PLANET WEIRDO

A realistic YA story follows a teen’s journey from caving in to peer pressure to finding her own path.

Carney’s debut novel opens with 14-year-old Jennifer Shaw making a poor decision to help her friend and fellow student Sammy steal a purse from an older woman. From the very beginning, the author highlights Jennifer’s thought processes; the girl feels reluctance about the endeavor but also assumes that Sammy knows what he’s doing. Jennifer is caught by authorities and sentenced to community service in the Pine Rest Care Center. There, she’ll interact with many elderly people, as the judge wants her to learn to respect her elders. The teen begins a journey of self-discovery that alternates between negative influences and new, positive ones. For example, she later teases Tom Goodhue, her classmate and math whiz—until she realizes that she has more in common with him than she thought. Carney effectively shows how Jennifer gradually progresses from a state of somewhat numb unhappiness to a warmer attitude that includes growing respect for the seniors of Pine Rest as well as for the many adults who support her. (The teen even grudgingly helps plan a dance inspired by her comment that Tom is from “Planet Weirdo”—a mean concept that’s transformed into a creative story.) At the same time, she enjoys the attention of Sammy, who’s fallen in with a suspect group of people, and eventually she must choose a side. The smooth pacing of the text admirably sets up Jennifer’s relationships, and Carney ably develops many characters as she muses on the nature of community service. Overall, the book’s concepts aren’t new, but readers will enjoy how the author portrays Jennifer’s spunk, creativity, and growth as she faces changes in her life.

An often powerful intergenerational story that overcomes its commonplace life lessons.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68470-672-3

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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