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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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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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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