DREAMLAND LAKE

Not once, but three different times, Brian Bishop finds himself staring into the "Awful Face of Death." Brian's stunned reactions to the suddenness of death and the ultimate incomprehensibility of a corpse are in stark counterpoint to his other memories of his thirteenth summer. He and his friend Flip subsist largely on sly adolescent wit — chuckling over the inept efforts of English teacher Mabel Klimer to introduce them to POETRY, Brian's mother's fondness for Bacharach, and the frumpish gentility of an old local history book produced by one Estella Winlder Bates; they also fantasize together about their hero, the YMCA swimming teacher whom they nickname Ralph The Free. After the two boys find the body of an old tramp in the woods Flip, who lives up to his name and has a cruel streak besides, encourages Brian in another illusion: perhaps the pathetic fat boy Elvan, who has been trying to interest them in his collection of Nazi souvenirs, knows something more about the tramp's death? Their efforts to build their discovery into a full-scale mystery eventually leads to a real tragedy — a startlingly convincing freak accident which sets the seal to Brian's chronicle of innocence remembered and lost. Less convincing, however, is the implication that Flip is actually responsible for what happens to Elvan. This assignment of guilt by hindsight adds an unsettling dimension to an otherwise finely tuned shocker. Though the fraternal naivete of boarding school life in another generation has been replaced with a kind of wry public school prescience, this ambiguous mixture of nostalgia and guilt is invariably reminiscent of a Separate Peace. The message is somewhat less than meets the eye, but for boys at a certain stage of growing up, Dreamland Lake projects a firm reality.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 1973

ISBN: 0141308125

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Holt Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1973

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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