HORSE THIEF

“It was the horses that held my heart. . . . It was worship.” Tullis Yoder loves horses. A lowly member of the Big Bubb Stampede, a ragged horse show in 1939 Chickalookie, Florida, Tullis is enamored with the life and characters of the almost-rodeo. The chief brag and comic symbol of the show is Big Bubb Nilbut, America’s Biggest Cowboy, weighing in at 500 pounds and riding a Clydesdale horse. When the boss, Mr. Judah St. Jude, gives Tullis a chance to live out his dream and be a bulltopper—trying to go eight seconds atop a bad bull named Gutbuster—Tullis falls a few seconds short and loses half of his right hand. When Big Bubb takes a thunderous tumble off of Clyde and breaks his neck, the show disbands, and Tullis’s beloved horses are destined to be “trucked to a slaughtery, hit in the head by a sledgehammer, and minced into pet meal.” Obviously, Tullis cannot let this be, and the rest of the story becomes a romp, with larger-than-life characters and slapstick action as the 13 horses are rescued and taken on a pilgrimage to safety. Tullis’s scenes are told in first person, the others in third, and the transitions are at times jarring. The best scenes are of Tullis and his attempts at bulltopping glory. Peck’s prose is lively and lavish, with a gift for the humorous image: “The sheriff felt the political image slowly melt off his face and run down his shirtfront. Like spilled supper.” A nobody at the beginning of the story, Tullis is, by the end, a hero, and readers will enjoy following his madcap route to glory. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: June 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-623791-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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

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

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