Instructive and inspiring for storytellers of all ages.

A gifted storyteller shares the method and memories behind her magic.

With chapters bearing labels such as “Plot,” “Character Development,” “Setting,” and “Voice,” award-winning teen historical fiction author Sepetys’ first foray into nonfiction may look at first glance like an ordinary book on the craft of writing, but the introductory line, “life is story in motion,” reveals a more sophisticated yet accessible approach: sideways, through the lens of memory. Her parents’ early struggles and lifelong artistry gave her the sense that plots were everywhere. Discussing characterization, she recalls her 12-year-old self asking permission to paint her entire bedroom “brown like poop” (she even saved up for the paint). They agreed—and offered guidance on choosing an accent color. Eavesdropping on strangers trained Sepetys’ ear to write dialogue, and she presents lowlights from her dating career as an exercise in character research. Each themed chapter ends with a recap of the main points presented, a set of writing prompts, and an intriguing set of “Stories To Uncover and Discover.” Diving further into the subject of revision, Sepetys relates an anecdote that reveals how knowing only one side of a story leads to misunderstanding and errors, critical information for anyone writing history, whether theirs or someone else’s. The dedication, hard work, and attention to detail that her fiction is known for show here in every carefully considered line, but most of all it’s her heart that shines through.

Instructive and inspiring for storytellers of all ages. (Nonfiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9780593524381

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Small but mighty necessary reading.

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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