A vivid and important depiction of the struggles of too many teens.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

THE LIFE I'M IN

A troubled African American teen gets caught up in the world of trafficking as she tries to cope with negative feelings about herself.

Despite her sister’s best efforts, 16-year-old Charlese Jones is still making trouble and getting kicked out of school. Her sister and guardian, JuJu, has had enough and prepares to send her to their grandparents in Alabama. On the bus ride, Char continues to be angry, irreverent, and difficult. She argues with the driver and drinks alcohol she has smuggled in her bag. Still, she interacts with others on the bus, learning their stories and thinking about her own life. When new passenger April and her baby, Cricket, board, they become Char’s focus—and then April disappears, leaving Cricket behind. When the man who left with April returns, he takes Char into the dark world of sexual trafficking, a place she begins to think she deserves. Flake follows her groundbreaking novel The Skin I’m In (1998) with a sequel for these times. Char, the antagonist from the first book, is presented here in all her vulnerability, eliciting empathy even as she makes mistakes. The ease with which some prey on vulnerable youth is starkly portrayed, balanced by the efforts of other caring adults to save them. The unflinching narrative is rich in dialogue and detail.

A vivid and important depiction of the struggles of too many teens. (author's note, research and resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-57317-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic.

ALL OUR HIDDEN GIFTS

An Irish teen grapples with past misdeeds and newfound ties to magic.

When 16-year-old Maeve discovers a deck of tarot cards stashed with a mixtape of moody indie music from 1990, she starts giving readings for her classmates at her all-girls private school. Though her shame over dumping her strange friend Lily during an attempt to climb the social ladder at St. Bernadette’s is still palpable, it doesn’t stop her from trying to use the tarot in her favor to further this goal. However, after speaking harsh words to Lily during a reading, Maeve is horrified when her former friend later disappears. As she struggles to understand the forces at play within her, classmate Fiona proves to be just the friend Maeve needs. Detailed, interesting characters carry this contemporary story of competing energy and curses. Woven delicately throughout are chillingly eerie depictions of the Housekeeper, a figure who shows up on an extra card in the deck, echoing the White Lady legend from Irish folklore. Even more disturbing is an organization of young people led by a homophobic but charismatic figurehead intent on provoking backlash against Ireland’s recent civil rights victories. Most characters are White; Fiona is biracial, with a Filipina mother and White Irish father. Roe, Maeve’s love interest and Lily’s sibling, is a bisexual, genderqueer person who is a target for intolerance in their small city of Kilbeg.

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1394-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more