A worthwhile, chilling novel that makes demands of its audience and rewards them richly in return.

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC

Alternating narrators tell the story of a day in April when school shootings coordinated in an internet forum occur in various locations across the country.

Distinctive voices slowly piece together the details of a variety of characters' stories, rather like 18-year-old April's Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, which enables her to remember with photographic precision her childhood friendship with a boy named Lincoln before he moved away after his father died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Meanwhile, teenage Lincoln also takes a turn, relating his odd relationship with Laura Echols, beautiful but remote, and how their fates intertwine with their thoughtful, Glass Menagerie–assigning English teacher, who fears one of her students may be planning an act of violence. Both the emotionally awkward mastermind of the shooting plot and those hiding from active shooters at their schools also share their perspectives in accounts that are poignant and realistic. The sheer number of narrators means that readers will need to pay close attention in order to understand how the various strands link together, but lovely writing, replete with literary references, will spur them on. There is some ethnic diversity—while characters such as Phoebe, Laura, and Adrian appear to be white, Gavin is described as having brown skin and green eyes, Gina's last name is Morales, and Pal is Indian-American.

A worthwhile, chilling novel that makes demands of its audience and rewards them richly in return. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7851-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...

DEAR MARTIN

In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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