A compact, emotionally resonant tale ideal for reluctant readers.

RIGHT ON CUE

A high school senior dreaming of a filmmaking career gets sidetracked when her newly sober mother reenters her life.

Five years with stable, loving foster parents have enabled Alex to leave her chaotic childhood behind and envision a future studying film at a New York college to which her art teacher, a former foster kid herself, encourages her to apply. Each applicant must submit a short documentary. Alex has procrastinated and further loses focus when she learns that her birth mom, Marie, now sober but gravely ill, wants to see her. Fearing a reprise of Marie’s humiliating drunken behavior in public two years earlier, Alex visits reluctantly. Aware that frail Marie is eager for her companionship and love, Alex holds back, unwilling to trust her continued sobriety—they’ve been here before. But witnessing Marie’s illness firsthand dissolves Alex’s resistance; she begins to let go of past pain and, with awakening compassion, to forgive. Ignoring college application deadlines, Alex embraces this all-consuming reconnection. Then Marie starts pulling away and suddenly disappears. The short, evocative poems bring Alex to passionate life, sustaining readers’ interest. Selectively omitting granular details, Bradley keeps readers’ attention on the universalities of Alex’s journey to acknowledge and heal the emotional scars she bears, accept the support she needs, and, despite everything, find a place for Marie in her heart. Characters are racially ambiguous.

A compact, emotionally resonant tale ideal for reluctant readers. (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9785-9617-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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Part coming-of-age story and part exposé of Duterte’s problematic policies, this powerful and courageous story offers...

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PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING

Seventeen-year-old Jay Reguero searches for the truth about his cousin’s death amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs while on an epic trip back to his native Philippines.

Shocked out of his senioritis slumber when his beloved cousin Jun is killed by the police in the Philippines for presumably using drugs, Jay makes a radical move to spend his spring break in the Philippines to find out the whole story. Once pen pals, Jay hasn’t corresponded with Jun in years and is wracked by guilt at ghosting his cousin. A mixed heritage (his mother is white) Filipino immigrant who grew up in suburban Michigan, Jay’s connection to current-day Philippines has dulled from assimilation. His internal tensions around culture, identity, and languages—as “a spoiled American”—are realistic. Told through a mix of first-person narration, Jun’s letters to Jay, and believable dialogue among a strong, full cast of characters, the result is a deeply emotional story about family ties, addiction, and the complexity of truth. The tender relationship between Jay and Jun is especially notable—as is the underlying commentary about the challenges and nuances between young men and their uncles, fathers, male friends, and male cousins.

Part coming-of-age story and part exposé of Duterte’s problematic policies, this powerful and courageous story offers readers a refreshingly emotional depiction of a young man of color with an earnest desire for the truth. (author’s note, recommended reading) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55491-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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