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NEVER WANTED

An angst-riddled family tale that enlightens and delights.

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A wayward American teen struggles to find his place in a foster family in this YA novel.

It seems that high school sophomore Roy Perkins has given up. He doesn’t worry about his grades anymore, to the point of tossing his English book out the classroom window. And why should he care? His dad died in the Army; his mom cooked meth in their trailer before she died; and now he only has Uncle Frank, a drunk who disciplines Roy with a belt. When Frank lands in jail, a social worker takes Roy to live with the Radleys, who are already fostering 5-year-old twin boys. Roy’s behavior and attitude don’t improve, as he gets in a fight at school. But he gradually warms to his foster parents’ tenderheartedness, and it turns out he likes being a big brother to the twins. When Roy’s bad decisions lead to a mistake that puts his foster family in danger, the social worker threatens to take him away. But Roy wants to stay with his new family and will have to prove he’s a responsible teenager. Thompson’s concise, undemanding prose makes reading this short novel a breeze. Piquing interest in reading is the author’s goal. But he still manages to establish scenes and characters with panache. At one point Roy observes: “Wednesday morning. English. I’m still tired from last night. I put my head on my desk. I need to close my eyes for a minute.” Roy is a likable protagonist worthy of sympathy; his initial reluctance to trust the Radleys, in spite of their overwhelming kindness, is understandable. The author sprinkles moral lessons throughout that, while pronounced, are never heavy-handed. Roy, for example, has a crucial choice to make in the final act, and he learns the right thing isn’t always the easiest. This book offers a rewarding story for both YA and older readers.

An angst-riddled family tale that enlightens and delights.

Pub Date: June 14, 2021

ISBN: 979-8520314882

Page Count: 113

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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