A well-written, if occasionally ponderous, exploration of modern high school life.

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SCHOOL TALES

Myrick’s debut novel follows several teenagers at two Virginia high schools as they find their paths.

The book opens at Hilltop Academy, a private school populated by the children of faculty at two nearby colleges. Chelsea silently critiques school policies (“So what’s inside my backpack is important, but not what’s inside me?”) and her clique-y classmates. She also connects with recent California transplant Sean, who, like her, is struggling to find his place. Sean organizes a nature walk in response to the suicide of a bullied student. Then he persuades his parents to let him transfer to the less-exclusive Stone Creek High School, where he joins Chelsea’s friends Cora, a politically active organizer exploring her biracial heritage; Jake, who wants to follow his father into agriculture despite the challenges faced by small farmers; and the gregarious Daniel, whose nickname is “Mr. Mayor.” Stone Creek’s unconventional principal, Mr. Shepherd, answers to the name “Chief” and encourages student autonomy. The book’s narration shifts among the various students as they deal with personal and academic challenges and make their ways toward graduation. Myrick is a thoughtful writer who gets deep into her characters’ psyches. That said, the teenagers’ self-centered, pseudo-intellectual voices are so accurately portrayed as to be grating at times (as when Sean describes Hilltop Academy to Daniel’s mother: “we were the fish, kept apart from the real world of natural waters, glubbing around in circles, until we almost believed it was normal”). However, the author seems determined to give full weight to her young characters’ arguments, no matter how petty they might appear to adults. This is demonstrated by how she uses the character of Chief, who repeatedly learns from the kids under his charge.

A well-written, if occasionally ponderous, exploration of modern high school life.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-423-3

Page Count: 303

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2018

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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