Oversized and 15, Lucy runs away from her bleak life to find herself faking adulthood in an adventure story which takes place in Alaska. After her mother’s abandonment, Lucy has felt obligated to become the caretaker for her alcoholic father. The distance between the two is enormous, notwithstanding Lucy’s frequently rescuing him from the cold storage room at his favorite bar. Lonely and ridiculed for her size at school, Lucy becomes attached to a stray dog only to learn that it is so ill that death is inevitable. Hurt and angry, she suddenly abandons her life in Sitka and finds herself transported to the Bering Sea, where the crab-fishing season is underway. Taken for an adult, she signs on as a crabber and discovers strength in herself and friendship, as well as earning respect and cash in the adult world. With a prologue that takes place ten feet below the surface of the Bering Sea, readers are always aware that ultimately events will become desperate. The overwhelming kindness of most strangers and the fortuitous play of events undermine the edge acquired by this device. Written in many terse sentences that might be intended to indicate homage to Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea features in the narrative), Smith’s staccato style is occasionally effective, but often irritating. There is an abruptness in the action, an unrealistic scene where Lucy matches tequila shots with a fisherman, and the pacing falters. The narrative teeters between portraying the rugged life in the Arctic waters and the fragility of Lucy internal musings. The unusual setting and the issue of self-esteem as it relates to size are pluses in this otherwise middling first YA effort. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-72940-5

Page Count: 217

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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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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An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.


Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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