NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE

Teens who enjoy snarky commentary on high school life may be satisfied with these shortcuts, but Norton doesn't open any new...

All the tropes of YA fiction—suicide, depression, drug abuse, bullying, problems of race, class, and gender, high school cliques, and their ensuing drama—are exploited in this mildly entertaining novel.

Sixteen-year-old Cliff is a basically likable teen, but with a passive mother, alcoholic father, and dead brother, he has issues to work through, not least of which is his size. At 6 feet 6 inches tall and 250 pounds, he’s earned the unwelcome nickname “Neanderthal.” When Aaron, one of Cliff's tormentors, returns to Happy Valley High School following a coma-induced change of heart, he insists that God has given him a list of tasks that he and Cliff must complete together. The boys' rapid change from animosity to friendship as they work on the list is convenient but unlikely. The romantic threads in the story are equally unrealistic, serving mostly as a way to introduce sexual fantasy into the narrative. All this is revealed in first-person narration and expletive-laced dialogue. Norton (Marrow, 2015, etc.) seems to be working too hard to be cool. Too much happens, too quickly to these stereotypical characters: jocks, stoners, computer nerds, airhead girls, and Jesus teens. A harsh principal and an English teacher who has lost his passion for teaching have similarly quick attitude adjustments.

Teens who enjoy snarky commentary on high school life may be satisfied with these shortcuts, but Norton doesn't open any new doors to the high school universe. (Fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-9062-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues...

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He’s in remission from the osteosarcoma that took one of his legs. She’s fighting the brown fluid in her lungs caused by tumors. Both know that their time is limited.

Sparks fly when Hazel Grace Lancaster spies Augustus “Gus” Waters checking her out across the room in a group-therapy session for teens living with cancer. He’s a gorgeous, confident, intelligent amputee who always loses video games because he tries to save everyone. She’s smart, snarky and 16; she goes to community college and jokingly calls Peter Van Houten, the author of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, her only friend besides her parents. He asks her over, and they swap novels. He agrees to read the Van Houten and she agrees to read his—based on his favorite bloodbath-filled video game. The two become connected at the hip, and what follows is a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance. From their trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive Van Houten to their hilariously flirty repartee, readers will swoon on nearly every page. Green’s signature style shines: His carefully structured dialogue and razor-sharp characters brim with genuine intellect, humor and desire. He takes on Big Questions that might feel heavy-handed in the words of any other author: What do oblivion and living mean? Then he deftly parries them with humor: “My nostalgia is so extreme that I am capable of missing a swing my butt never actually touched.” Dog-earing of pages will no doubt ensue.

Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues to make it through Hazel and Gus’ poignant journey. (Fiction. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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