DREAMLAND

A teenager opts for the bad-choice route out of her “perfect” older sister’s shadow in this intense, exhausting tale from the author of Keeping the Moon (1999). Caitlin has always felt semi-invisible next to soccer star–senior class president–Homecoming Queen Cass, and that doesn’t change in any important way when Cass suddenly takes off with a male friend for New York, leaving their mother Margaret, inconsolably fretful and distracted. When not even a successful bid to make the cheerleading squad earns Caitlin more than fitful parental attention, she plunges into faster waters, hooking up with Rogerson, a fifth-year senior with a police record, a BMW, and a thriving business dealing pot. At first it’s an exciting ride, filled with new friends and experiences, but Caitlin’s dream soon twists into nightmare. So dependent does her emotional state become on Rogerson’s ups and downs that even when he starts slapping her around, she hides the bruises and retreats into numb isolation, feeling trapped but lacking the will to escape. Dessen’s characters are familiar but not entirely typecast, which adds flavor to their interactions—though they are paired off into stable and unstable relationships in a rather deliberate way. Caitlin finally gets the help she needs to break free after Rogerson furiously beats her in public, and piece-by-piece she rebuilds her self-respect in rehab, with the help of a liberating letter from Cass. Her descent and recovery come in believable stages, and though Rogerson is definitely the villain here, the author gives readers reason to spare a dash (a very small dash) of sympathy for him, too. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-89122-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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 grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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