An uncommon, successful approach to a tough topic.

BEING TOFFEE

In Cornwall, a 16-year-old runaway and a senior with dementia form an unusual friendship that leads to mutual solace.

Allison has always been able to cope with her angry, widowed father’s abuse, especially with Kelly-Anne, her father’s fiancee, there to mediate. But when Kelly-Anne leaves suddenly and her father burns her face, Allison runs away. Crossan, the Children’s Literature Laureate of Ireland, conveys the teen’s story in raw verse. While seeking refuge in a presumably empty house, Allison quickly discovers that it’s occupied by Marla, an elderly woman with dementia. Confusing Allison for a childhood friend named Toffee, Marla invites the teen into her home. At first Allison pretends to be Toffee simply to live with Marla and survive, but when she secretly observes the disrespect and abuse Marla receives from caregivers and family, she uses her predicament to give Marla the life she deserves. Crossan weaves in flashbacks from Allison’s past to help readers understand her thoughts and actions during this transition. Despite Marla’s dementia and the age difference, it’s clear that both women understand each other’s hardships and grow in friendship because of this mutual sympathy. The effect is at once painful and beautiful. Although the spare format forces readers to fill in gaps, it also renders lovely imagery as Allison seeks the family she needs. All characters seem to be White.

An uncommon, successful approach to a tough topic. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0329-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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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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