WHAT THE BIRDS SEE

A bleakly haunting novel focuses its lens on a child struggling to survive in a family of emotional cripples. The tale opens with the disappearance of three siblings on their way to the ice cream shop, but this serves only to set up and frame the story of nine-year-old Adrian, as lost in his family as the three abducted children are in the world. His parents being unwilling and unable to care for him, he lives with his grandmother, a widow who is burdened with the certainty that she hasn’t the energy or the desire to raise a boy, and his uncle, a once-vigorous man who has chosen to live in self-imposed exile from the world after causing the death of a friend in an automobile accident. Adrian goes joylessly from home to school, where he clings desperately to the society of the only boy who will acknowledge him and where he watches with horror the antics of the mad Horsegirl, a student from a nearby home for troubled children; he knows that he is only a hairsbreadth away from descending to her status in the schoolyard. When a peculiar family moves in across the street, he finds himself drawn to them, desperate for child society; the older girl is obsessed with the lost children, and Adrian finds himself sucked—disastrously—into her search for them. Hartnett (Thursday’s Child, 2002, etc.) has a genius for voice, her third-person narrative sliding effortlessly from Adrian’s point-of-view to his grandmother’s and back, always tightly filtering the story through the experiences and perceptions of her focus. The precision of language and unsentimental look into children’s capacity for cruelty and despair recall Cormier, as does the weaving in and out of the mystery of the lost children as counterpoint. There is no great cataclysmic ending, no blinding revelation here, however—just a series of small, child-sized cataclysms, ignored by those who should love Adrian and drowned out by media ravings over the lost children. Exquisite, wrenching, unforgettable. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7636-2092-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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