A psychological portrait of a family torn apart by grief and mental illness that is, at times, overly dramatic.

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ISLAND

Seventeen-year-old Konrad “Rad” Schoe’s mentally ill father is dead, and he doesn’t know how to feel about it.

When Rad’s twin brother, Key, claims he might be responsible for the fact that their father’s body is lying dead at the bottom of a ravine, Rad doesn’t know whether to believe him. Key has always been calm and loving while Rad is haunted by intense emotions that often manifest in fits of rage, much like their father’s. As Rad tries to understand what happened—and to protect his brother from the police—he tells the story of how their family fell apart, including his father’s first mental breakdown and his mother’s sudden death. Throughout, Rad struggles to keep his hold on reality—and to fight his fear that he may suffer from the same mental illness that runs in his family. Rad’s erratic voice, which includes truncated sentences and quick changes in perspective, is darkly poetic but often reads much older than his age. Furthermore, the unresolved plot points make the novel feel more like literary fiction than young adult. The island metaphor that runs throughout sometimes feels forced, as do the romantic relationships. Rad and his family are white and working class, Key is queer, and two secondary characters are implied biracial (Korean/white).

A psychological portrait of a family torn apart by grief and mental illness that is, at times, overly dramatic. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-192-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Few chills and even less logic.

BENT HEAVENS

Can Liv put the pieces of her life back together after her father’s mental breakdown?

In rural Bloughton, Iowa, Liv takes solace in the cross country team and the idea that she will be off to college before too long. Three years ago, her father, the high school’s former English and drama teacher, vanished only to return naked and talking about alien abduction. He disappeared for good eight months later. Liv and her friend Doug check the elaborate traps her father built in the woods during those eight months every Sunday. The teacher who replaced him decides to stage the same musical that was her father’s swan song, and after getting in trouble for an outburst over her insensitivity, Liv decides to destroy the traps…but discovers that one has caught an alien. After hiding the horrifying creature in her father’s shed, they discover it has her father’s compass. In anger, Liv attacks the beast and then she and Doug torture it repeatedly as revenge for her missing father…but the alien is not what they perceive him to be, and as the truth is revealed, the horror mounts. Kraus’ (Blood Sugar, 2019, etc.) newest horror fantasy (there is no science here) might inspire more anger than horror as the protagonists respond to otherness with violence. Outrage will likely be followed by laughter at the stagy, manipulative, over-the-top conclusion. Most characters seem to be white.

Few chills and even less logic. (Horror. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15167-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.

WATCH OVER ME

After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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