GOODBYE FROM NOWHERE

How to pretend like everything is fine according to Kyle Baker.

Divided into four parts, Zarr’s (contributor: Life Inside My Mind, 2018, etc.) latest begins with Kyle bringing his first girlfriend, Nadia, to Thanksgiving on his grandparents’ farm. Like any other family, the Bakers have their share of quirky members and nuanced relationships. But to Kyle, they are happy and normal—as normal as his family can be, at least. Then tragedy strikes in Part 2 when Kyle learns that his mother is having an affair and both of his parents instruct him not to tell anyone, including his sisters and girlfriend. Kyle emotionally shuts down, cutting class, avoiding Nadia’s attempts at confrontation, and bailing on his baseball team. The one person Kyle longs to confide in is his cousin Emily, who is asexual and/or aromantic and who doesn’t live nearby. While bearing the burden of his parents’ secret, he discovers that his grandparents plan on selling their farm. Some readers may resonate with Kyle’s difficulty at navigating frustration with his parents and loneliness within his own family, but his intense feelings of intimacy toward Emily, prompting his sister to joke about marriage between cousins, may prove off-putting, and his overall character arc is lacking in resolution. Most main characters are cued as white; some of Kyle’s relatives are Mexican American, and there is implied diversity in the supporting cast.

A lukewarm family drama. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243468-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst.

DRY

When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration.

When the Tap-Out hits and the state’s entire water supply runs dry, 16-year-old Alyssa Morrow and her little brother, Garrett, ration their Gatorade and try to be optimistic. That is, until their parents disappear, leaving them completely alone. Their neighbor Kelton McCracken was born into a survivalist family, but what use is that when it’s his family he has to survive? Kelton is determined to help Alyssa and Garrett, but with desperation comes danger, and he must lead them and two volatile new acquaintances on a perilous trek to safety and water. Occasionally interrupted by “snapshots” of perspectives outside the main plot, the narrative’s intensity steadily rises as self-interest turns deadly and friends turn on each other. No one does doom like Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead, 2018, etc.)—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away. He and his debut novelist son have crafted a world of dark thirst and fiery desperation, which, despite the tendrils of hope that thread through the conclusion, feels alarmingly near to our future. There is an absence of racial markers, leaving characters’ identities open.

Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8196-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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