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

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MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE

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. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

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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An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT

Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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