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

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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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Small but mighty necessary reading.

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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