MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE

Overall, a fun and enjoyable look into the drama of lives of privilege and power.

An American teen is swept away to Tokyo, Japan, beginning a posh new life with a father she’s never met.

Ever since her prescription-drug addicted mother went to jail, Elle Zoellner, who is European-American, African-American, and Native American on her mother’s side and Japanese on her father’s, has been in foster care. On her 16th birthday her long-lost father sends for her. Suddenly, Elle is living in a luxury Tokyo hotel owned by her family and attending an elite international school. It all seems like a dream come true until she meets her impassive father and indifferent grandmother and aunt. In an attempt to win them over, she makes her way into the superrich and popular clique at school, the Ex-Brats. But when Elle finds herself falling for the boy iced out by the group and hated by her family, her life becomes even more confusing. Cohn (Sam & Ilsa’s Last Hurrah, 2018, etc.) creates a fun, well-paced novel about family, friendship, and romance, but aside from Elle, many characters are underdeveloped and the plot feels like a soap opera. Cohn tries to tackle many important issues, including substance abuse, but doesn’t devote much attention to them. The ending feels rushed and abrupt, but the descriptions of Japanese etiquette and customs, sights, attractions, and food succeed.

Overall, a fun and enjoyable look into the drama of lives of privilege and power. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-00839-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

INDIVISIBLE

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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GIRL IN PIECES

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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