An entertaining, comic, but also thoughtful coming-of-age tale.

OFF TRAIL

In this YA novel, a 15-year-old boy is sent to a wilderness camp for delinquents.

It’s 1980, and while life in a cookie-cutter suburb of Tucson can be dull, narrator Daniel looks forward to summer vacation in a few weeks. But Mom and Dad, convinced he’s heading down the path of his wild-child older sister, Jackie (currently disappointing her parents while living in Phoenix), have signed him up for Quest Trail—camping in the desert with other teenage ne’er-do-wells for character-building wilderness education. At least Daniel’s childhood friend Greg Pittz will be there, and the campers include the glamorous, charismatic Vera Lee Buffington. They almost make up for the terrible food and painfully corny, coerced self-help shticks, such as joining in a circle to declare your “daily wintention.” When an authoritarian counselor goes too far, Vera proposes an escape plan and is joined by Daniel, Greg, and another camper. Their ensuing adventure includes hopping a train, stealing a dune buggy from a marijuana stash house in the desert, and eventually tracking down Jackie. In the end, Daniel has a new appreciation for his family, friends, and the entire Quest Trail experience. Debut author Polito writes excellent dialogue, nailing his wiseass teenagers’ snarky observations: “The road to hell is paved with good wintentions.” Also on target are the camp’s maddeningly earnest lingo and maxims, like “sarcasm…is simply the scar tissue of the soul.” Beneath the jokes, though, is a compelling story of growth; as Vera puts it, “Quest Trail is the epicenter of suckitude, but real shit happens here, real friends happen here.” That Daniel wrests an authentic experience from the camp’s “jackass solemnity” speaks well of him and his growing maturity.

An entertaining, comic, but also thoughtful coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: June 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953944-52-8

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 28

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

GIRL IN PIECES

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 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE WAY I USED TO BE

In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

more