Sonny Bear fights like a zombie, throwing punches as if he’s underwater. He’s the heavyweight champion, but he feels lost, drugged, and hollow. He wins the bout that opens the story with a split decision, hardly looking like a champion, not even sure what he is doing out there. He has run from the Reservation, cynical about the Moscondaga Nation, but only feels accepted by whites because he’s a champ. Now he’s “the Tomahawk Kid, the Natural Man, the Native Son” and faces an existential crisis: “Shove that tired old Redskin crap, I’m not anything anymore. Not Indian, not white. Leave me alone. I’m not anywhere.” In a parallel narrative, Starkey, the self-appointed Warrior Angel with a Mission for the Creator, escapes his group home to save Sonny’s soul and prepare him to defend his title against Floyd (The Wall) Hall. Starkey seems mentally ill but gives Sonny what he needs: a return to Donatelli’s Gym, old friends, and a strict training regimen. In this conclusion to his boxing saga first begun with The Contender over 35 years ago and nearly 10 years since The Chief, Lipsyte demonstrates his sportswriter’s gift of muscular prose and vivid detail. Sonny looks down on the Vegas strip and thinks it looked “like all the crayons in the world melted into a dazzling river.” When Sonny goes out for a run, Starkey follows on bike, “squeaking along a slalom course of garbage and broken bottles and ruptured concrete on the fifteen blocks down to Central Park.” With a swift plot, exciting boxing scenes, the mysterious, unstable character of Starkey, and life lessons drawn from boxing, this will appeal to fans of sports novels and all enthusiasts of good writing regardless of genre. The long wait has been worth it. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-000496-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams.


Who doesn’t want to be a K-pop idol?

Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan—but secretly, because she fears it’s a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee’s fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry’s actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay.

A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63993-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A superb, complex romance full of heart, humor, and unforgettable characters.


Two promising Texas basketball players navigate the ups and downs of first love.

For 11th grade star players Carli and Rex, it’s love at first sight when he blows her a kiss from the free-throw line as she watches the game on the sidelines. Carli believes in magic and looks for signs in everyday life—like Rex’s kiss—to help her make decisions. Who should she live with after her parents’ divorce? What should she do with her future—one that won’t include basketball, which she knows will disappoint her father and teammates? Rex is a nature lover like his mother, who died giving birth to him. His father is distant, and inside their big, lonely house, Rex dreams of the NBA. Carli and Rex’s roller-coaster romance is rife with betrayal, heartbreak, grief, and family secrets. As narrators of alternating chapters, they are funny, smart, and unflinchingly candid. Well-written dialogue and fine attention to detail reveal Tamani’s strong insight into Gen Z life. The intensity and depth of Carli and Rex’s love story are conveyed as deftly as the high-energy play-by-plays in their basketball games. Tamani crafts layers of complexity around falling in love, making hard choices, and dealing with loss—on and off the court—in this deeply intimate story of two talented, sensitive teens. Carli, Rex, and their relatives and friends are Black; Rex’s teammates are White.

A superb, complex romance full of heart, humor, and unforgettable characters. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265691-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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