An easy-to-read and inspirational story for struggling readers.


A teacher helps a 10th grader with his reading difficulties in Thompson’s YA novella.

Owen Daniels has a secret: He can’t read very well. Thus far he’s been able to hide this fact, but now that he’s a high school sophomore, it’s becoming increasingly difficult, especially when his new English teacher, Ms. Gulliver, starts calling on students to read aloud in class. He realizes that he’s bound to fail in his classes eventually and that he may be mocked by his fellow students. But Ms. Gulliver proves to be an ally when she gives him an easy-to-read book as part of a long-term plan to help his reading skills. With support from his mom and older sister, Owen starts to dedicate himself to that task, and that dedication spreads to other areas of his life and schoolwork, especially in science class. Slowly but surely, Owen starts to feel better about himself, and his fear of failure transforms into a dream of success. Thompson’s book has a clear-cut mission to encourage teens to read by working hard and applying themselves. It does so through simple, uncomplicated language that will appeal to struggling readers: “I remember when the school year started. My grades were terrible. I never thought I could get better. It’s been a lot of hard work. And I’ve read a lot of books.” It’s also a book about challenging expectations and the importance of support for those who are less privileged; Owen’s father is in prison, and his mother struggles to support their family. The protagonist’s reading challenges color much of his life, making the story limited to its very specific purpose, but it’s likely to be helpful to youngsters in similar situations.

An easy-to-read and inspirational story for struggling readers.

Pub Date: May 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-92372-7

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Bookstock Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2022

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller


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


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

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