"The bumblebee flies anyway"—and so too the life-sized model car, which Barney finds and dismantles in a nearby junkyard to reassemble in the attic, will ride. . . straight off the roof of The Complex, the institution where terminally ill teens are receiving experimental treatment. Barney conceives the car project largely for wasting Mazzo, rich and handsome but bitter, who wishes to "go out in a blaze of glory" and asks to be unplugged. But Barney has really taken an interest in Mazzo because of Mazzo's beautiful twin sister Cassie, and she in turn has a special interest in her brother's condition: for years she has noticed that when he is hurt, she feels it in her own body. (When he dies, then, what about her?) But Barney doesn't know about Cassie's "thing" or the reason for her increasing headaches; and only well along does he discover that he himself is not a "control" but one of the dying, like Mazzo and Billy the Kidney and the others. Those fragmented, nightmare memories he can't track down have been created for him by the doctors, to screen out the real, unacceptable memories of how he came to the institution. Until this discovery there are unexplained flashes, sinister-sounding treatments, and references—to "the handyman" and "the merchandise," Barney's terms for the doctor and the medicine—which seem more mysterious than they are. This air of ambiguity and vaguely totalitarian menace, a common thread in Cormier's fiction, sometimes seems a little contrived and arbitrary here, but it is far from inappropriate to a patient-inmate's view of hospital life. And if that final triumphant push of the car, with Mazzo dying on the roof in Barney's arms (Barney comes out of remission and dies soon after), is a little clichÉd, it is not sentimentally rendered as it might be in other hands. All in all the novel hasn't the consuming, focused tension of previous Cormier YAs, but that is not to deny its crisp, sure craftsmanship, suggestive applications, and holding power.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1983

ISBN: 044090871X

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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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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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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