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Will win readers’ hearts.

Grace Mendes isn’t comfortable in her own skin, but her pillow-fightin’ alter ego, Cinderhella, sure is.

Grace is a Toronto college student with a history of low self-esteem brought on by years of bullying and a complicated relationship with her stepmother. She lives with her childhood (and only) friend, Callie, who valiantly tries to pull Grace out of her shell by dragging her to a Pillow Fight Federation competition. With nods to the puntastic names seen in roller derby, the sport features bouts between players like Kat Atonic and Rapunchel. Grace quickly falls in love and decides to try it out herself, a decision that sends her on a journey that brings out the powerful person she is but also forces her to reckon with her insecurities when she faces a slew of social media comments. Even as the characters deal with homework, hangovers, and money anxieties outside the ring, this graphic novel with a notably bold color palette introduces readers to the lesser-known world of competitive pillow fighting and the ways it subverts traditional stereotypes around women in sports. Some plot points feel rushed—like Callie’s explorations of her sexuality and the single parenthood of one of the pillow fighters—but overall, this is a delightful, inclusive, feminist, coming-of-age sports story. Diversity in sexuality, gender, and race is represented in primary and secondary characters; Grace has brown skin, and Callie reads white.

Will win readers’ hearts. (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780358525721

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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A thrilling, high-tech page-turner with deep roots.

A teen navigates different worlds: real and virtual, colonized and Indigenous.

In the near-future real world, Bugz’s family has clout in the community—her mom is their first modern-day woman chief, her father’s a highly admired man, and her older brother is handsome and accomplished. Socially awkward Bugz, by contrast, feels more successful in the virtual gaming world of the Floraverse, where she has amassed tremendous power. Yes, her ’Versona has a slimmed-down figure—but Bugz harnesses her passion for the natural world and her Anishinaabe heritage to build seemingly unbeatable defenses, especially her devoted, lovingly crafted Thunderbird and snake/panther Mishi-pizhiw. Cheered on by legions of fans, she battles against Clan:LESS, a group of angry, misogynistic male gamers. One of them, Feng, ends up leaving China under a cloud of government suspicion and moving to her reservation to live with his aunt, the new doctor; they are Muslim Uighurs who have their own history of forced reeducation and cultural erasure. Feng and Bugz experience mutual attraction—and mistrust—and their relationship in and out of the Floraverse develops hesitantly under a shadow of suspected betrayal. Kinew (Anishinaabe) has crafted a story that balances heart-pounding action scenes with textured family and community relationships, all seamlessly undergirded by storytelling that conveys an Indigenous community’s past—and the vibrant future that follows from young people’s active, creative engagement with their culture.

A thrilling, high-tech page-turner with deep roots. (glossary, resources) (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6900-2

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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