Intriguing characters and splendid writing mitigate the lightweight plot.



Two teens in Manhattan really love each other, but they have trouble letting each other know.

Of course Dash loves Lily, but he doesn’t bother to say so, even though the white teens are officially boyfriend and girlfriend. Christmas is coming, and Dash knows that Lily adores the season, but she’s been depressed ever since her beloved grandfather had a heart attack. Lily just can’t seem to get excited and doesn’t even bother to get a tree, so Dash steps in to pick out the best tree available. Shortly after the annual tree-lighting party, usually arranged by Lily but not this year, Lily decides to go out walking in Manhattan and doesn’t bother to come home for the night. Dash and her brother go out looking for her and find her, but the same thing happens just a few days later. Finally Dash goes to extreme lengths to make Lily happy, while Lily despairs because Dash has never told her he loves her. Returning to their characters six years after Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (2010), Cohn and Levithan write with verve and plenty of wry comedy (“you are but a romantic sapling. I am a sequoia,” pontificates Lily’s great-aunt, Mrs. Basil E.), but this is as much a character study of Dash and Lily as it is a romance. However, character development and enjoyable prose overwhelm the rather skimpy plot, which consists mostly of Lily’s angst-driven episodes and Dash’s attempts to resolve them.

Intriguing characters and splendid writing mitigate the lightweight plot. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-55380-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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


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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