A well-paced, realistic YA story that looks at a difficult topic.




A brave young-adult novel about a devastating family secret.

Sixteen-year-old Tarah Carson’s high school life in small-town Bluford is going well: She’s dating a football star, she has close girlfriends, and one of her favorite teachers has suggested that her skills with children could point to an education career in her future. She also has a funny, smart gaggle of cousins keep her on her toes. But an impending family reunion in honor of a beloved aunt triggers Tarah’s deep-seated traumatic memories, because her Uncle Rudy, who sexually abused her as a child, will be there. Tarah’s afraid that Uncle Rudy might pose a threat to the youngest members of the family, and she weighs the consequences of telling her family and her boyfriend about his terrible past transgressions. As she does so, she finds herself facing, and questioning, her own coping mechanisms. Langan, in this installment of his ongoing series set in fictional Bluford, offers unflinchingly honest plot situations to engage and educate readers. It would be easy to fall into overdramatic or sentimental cliché with this novel’s subject matter, but Langan deftly avoids such traps, instead opting for natural dialogue and just enough specific detail to render his story universally relatable. The author’s portrayal of his teenage female protagonist’s internal struggles is admirable, although some readers may wish that the book elaborated more upon the emotional climax of the story, and its subsequent fallout. Some younger readers may find this book’s subject a bit too troubling, but older teens will likely be able to tolerate its frank discussion of familial taboos.

A well-paced, realistic YA story that looks at a difficult topic. 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1591943044

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2013

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.


Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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