A sharp, shockingly believable look at the inner-city life of a student.

PROMISES TO KEEP

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #19

Langan (Survivor, 2013, etc.), the editor of the YA Bluford High series and author of several in the series, offers a cleareyed look at the challenges faced by an inner-city high school student and his family.

The walls are closing in on 15-year-old Tyray Hobbs. Tough and big for his age, he’s an academic failure who’s been bullying other kids for years. Everyone is scared of him, even the few guys who hang out with him. That all changes in an instant when Darrell Mercer, Tyray’s longtime victim, turns the tables and publicly overpowers him. His humiliation complete and no longer feared, Tyray is now openly taunted and ostracized by all his fellow classmates. With violent crime and drug dealing commonplace in Tyray’s world, he responds to defeat by procuring a gun from someone in his neighborhood and going after Darrell in a dark alley. Darrell escapes the tense situation and helps stop any further violence, including Tyray’s suicide attempt. But when word of the gun and the abortive shootout reaches Tyray’s father, he reacts with fury. Nonetheless, he helps his younger son hide the weapon; it’s too late for the father to help Warren, his older son, who’s already in prison for a gun-related crime. In a stinging assertion, Tyray’s father tells him he’s no good and he’ll end up in prison like his brother. But Tyray isn’t yet ready to change. Further along in his journey, he’s guided by a compassionate teacher; his rueful brother, Warren; and Lark, a genuinely caring girl. Finally, by helping someone else out of a dangerous spot, he gains understanding and hope for redemption. Although the story follows a somewhat predictable YA trajectory, it doesn’t condescend to its audience or minimize the stakes. Action and characters ring true, and the language is conversational rather than unfailingly correct, though the author doesn’t attempt to be overly hip with the latest street slang. The tense, realistic story shows how quickly situations among young people can turn violent—even deadly—despite the best efforts of school officials and parents.

A sharp, shockingly believable look at the inner-city life of a student.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1591943037

Page Count: 151

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

The lives of two girls named Hannah, living in different centuries on different continents, intersect.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Dory is an English peasant living a harsh existence in 1347. Hannah Doe is a resident of Belman Psychiatric Hospital in 2023 New York City, brought in after being found on the street experiencing hallucinations and screaming something about a castle. Modern-day Hannah periodically enters a catatonic state, something the staff refer to as her “going to the castle.” Columbia psychology student Jordan Hassan is a new intern at Belman, and his interest is piqued by this girl no one knows much about. He decides to play detective and try to discover her history himself. Meanwhile, in the medieval England storyline, Hannah Dory tries to save her village from starvation by sneaking into the baron’s castle but finds herself swept up in a fight between the new baron and his rival. The book sustains a breakneck pace with short chapters and many cliffhangers that will keep readers’ interest. Patterson’s author’s note includes a list of mental health resources and describes his experience of working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. The narrative thoughtfully centers mental illness and touches on complex topics like suicide. Whiteness is the default; Jordan is cued as Muslim.

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-41172-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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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