Despite flaws, Jules’ hard-won insights into what families can give us and what we must find and create on our own make for...

RELATIVE STRANGERS

A teen’s discovery that she spent 19 months in foster care as an infant sends her searching for answers.

Jules’ single mom, an addict in long-term recovery who has kept Jules’ origins secret, prefers painting in her studio to spending time with her daughter (mother and daughter are assumed white). Confronted with evidence of Jules’ placement in foster care, her mom says only that she relinquished her during a one-time relapse. Jules’ friends Gab, cherished daughter of Jewish psychologists, and Leila, adopted by affluent parents from a Ukrainian orphanage, encourage her to seek her foster family. Through social media she connects with former foster brother Luke and learns his Jewish parents longed to adopt her and were heartbroken when she was returned to her mother. With Luke’s mother battling cancer, Jules spends a reunion weekend with his loving, financially comfortable family, contrasting their lives with the neglect she’s experienced. She also crushes over Luke (amid titillating fears it’s incestuous). Like Eli—Jules’ gay, goth barista friend—Luke’s an underdeveloped character. The demographically atypical depiction of foster care raises questions: why wasn’t Jules placed with relatives? Why did Luke’s family foster when their goal was to adopt? However, the stronger final chapters honor the myriad complexities of family life.

Despite flaws, Jules’ hard-won insights into what families can give us and what we must find and create on our own make for a moving read. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9469-2

Page Count: 468

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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A powerful tale of found family and first love.

SOME MISTAKES WERE MADE

After a year away, Ellis returns home to confront her past.

Graduating from high school far from everything familiar was not part of Ellis Truman’s original plans, but she nevertheless ended up spending her senior year with her aunt in California. In Indiana, Ellis practically grew up with the Albrey family and their three tightknit sons, Dixon, Tucker, and Easton. Now, Tucker wants her to return home for matriarch Sandry Albrey’s 50th birthday celebration on the Fourth of July—but Ellis is dreading seeing Easton, as they haven’t talked since she left. Chapters alternate between past and present, and much of the story unravels slowly: How did she come to live with the Albreys? What caused Ellis to then end up in San Diego? What happened in her relationship with Easton? Patient readers will find the heartfelt tension pays off. With her father in and out of jail and an absent mother, socio-economic differences separating Ellis from the middle-class Albreys don’t go unnoticed, and Ellis’ down-to-earth journey shows how she unpacks her feelings about her relationship with her parents. The slow-build romance is swoonworthy, and young adult fans of Colleen Hoover seeking emotional devastation and unforgettable characters will find much to enjoy here. Characters read as White.

A powerful tale of found family and first love. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308853-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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