Grim reading, with reassurance just the barest glimmer in a nightmarish landscape.

PUNCHING BAG

The author of Free Lunch (2019) continues his account of an abusive childhood into adolescence.

Reassuring readers in similar situations in the notes he places fore and aft that he survived, and they can too, Ogle focuses here on his home life. Beginning with a flashback to age 7 when he came back from a long stay with grandparents to the news that he would have had a baby sister, but she was dead and it was his fault, he chronicles in explicit detail high school years of screaming matches and vicious beat downs by both his wildly unstable Mexican American mom and alcoholic White stepfather between times when they beat on each other. The little sister he never had (stillborn, it turns out, after a typically brutal parental argument) plays a continuing role in his story, as both a source of crushing guilt, no less devastating for being undeserved, and a ghostly presence who helps him control his own tendency toward outbursts of rage. What emerges in the wake of all the bruises, blood, vomit, denial, and psychological battering is less a feeling of relief that Ogle succeeded in becoming an independent adult, than a sense that, despite the hopeful ending and his speaking of letting go and moving on, his personal journey takes a back seat here to an indictment of the irrecoverably broken grown-ups charged with raising him.

Grim reading, with reassurance just the barest glimmer in a nightmarish landscape. (resources) (Memoir. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-01623-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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Sweet, honest, and filled with personality.

SHE GETS THE GIRL

Many begin college with hopes of personal reinvention, and Alex Blackwood and Molly Parker are no exception.

Apparently opposite in every way, both girls nevertheless arrive for their freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh with the same goal in mind: to fundamentally change the way others perceive them and get their dream girls. Easy-peasy. Molly, whose mom is a transracial adoptee from Korea and whose father is assumed White, was socially anxious in high school. She worries that her close friendship with her mother holds her back. Willowy, blond Alex, who is implied White, has never once found herself at a loss in a social situation, and yet her fairy-tale story of adolescent beauty and wit is tempered by having a single mom whose struggles with alcohol abuse meant shouldering responsibilities far beyond her years. Utilizing tried and true tropes, married couple Lippincott and Derrick cut right to the heart of the matter when it comes to the mysteries of romance. Queerness itself is never the motivator of the drama, and gratifyingly, both girls find in one another the means to explore and unpack complexities of life unrelated to their sexualities. Nothing is made simplistic—not Alex’s relationship to self-expression and conventional beauty standards, nor Molly’s experiences of culture and community in a world that has expectations of her based on her racial identity.

Sweet, honest, and filled with personality. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9379-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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