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SYNCHRO BOY

A nuanced, compassionate exploration of male sexuality and identity.

After Bart, a dancer-turned–competitive swimmer, impulsively joins his Victoria, British Columbia, high school’s all-female synchronized swim team, he finds himself challenging heteronormative expectations both in and out of school.

Even Bart’s reasons for joining synchro—to prove to his former swim coach and homophobic teammates that he’s 100 percent boy and to get closer to Erika, his half-Japanese/half-white duet partner—reflect his awareness of, and susceptibility to, social expectations for young men. Yet, even as he falls for Erika, he falls in love with the sport itself, quickly joining the push to include coed synchro duets in high-level competitions (including, hopefully, the Olympics). Through Bart’s conversational style of narration, McFerran (Girls’ Diary Project, 2014) interrogates toxic masculinity and challenges social expectations for all teens. This is evident both in Bart’s comparison of synchro training to his old swim practices, in which he acknowledges the complex technical skill required for synchro, and in his exploration of the attraction he feels to both Erika and Dave, a boy on the diving team. Though he faces homophobic verbal attacks both at school and at meets, Bart, who is white, is supported by Julia, a gay black teammate. Bart’s eventual acceptance that he is bisexual gives him the confidence to lean into synchro while easing off on the need to validate his own masculinity through sporting achievements.

A nuanced, compassionate exploration of male sexuality and identity. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55152-744-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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