Addresses persecution while reinforcing it. Skip.

Two teens with bad lives connect.

Nicu arrived in “London North” only a month ago. He and his parents came from Romania because now that Nicu is a grown man at age 15, his father must earn money to pay for an arranged bride for Nicu back in Romania (against Nicu’s wishes). Jess has always lived in North London, trapped by a stepfather who beats her mother and makes Jess record it on his phone. The two underdogs meet in a community service program for kids caught stealing and share a mild romance born of desperation. In alternating chapters, they each narrate in first-person free verse. Jess, who’s white, narrates in standard English with touches of vernacular to convey her class. Nicu, who’s Roma and brown-skinned, narrates in an unrealistic and dehumanizing broken English (“Her touching help peace my mental / and my body”). It’s meant to show that English is new to him, but the use of broken language for thoughts inside his head is sharply belittling, precludes nuanced characterization, and is also incongruent with the use of standard English for his parents’ dialogue, also presumably “translated” from Romanian for readers’ benefit. This, along with Nicu’s lack of grooming and unexplained misordering of weekdays, renders Nicu the cheapest stereotype, nullifying the authors’ attempts to confront racism in their plot about bigotry, which includes anti-Roma slurs (as well as Islamophobic and pro-Brexit ones), violence, and injustice.

Addresses persecution while reinforcing it. Skip. (Verse fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-275-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017


Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017


Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2021

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