It’s that rarest of short story collections: There’s not a single lump of coal.

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME

TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES

Holidays meet romance in a Christmas- and Hanukkah-themed collection featuring some of teen fiction’s most prominent names.

A Latino NYU student, running out of food while catsitting during winter break, meets a white upstairs neighbor whose shower is broken in Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow.” In David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa,” a gay Jewish teen plays Santa for the benefit of his boyfriend’s kid sister. Kelly Link’s “The Lady and the Fox” shows the goddaughter of an intimidating English matriarch battling a set of magical rules to free a ghostly family member who only appears on Christmas. Although the majority of characters are white, Christian and straight, clearly attention has been paid here to the call for greater diversity in teen fiction. The setting of the romances varies greatly, from a chaotic trailer-park New Year’s party to a kitschy diner in a tiny “census-designated place” called Christmas, California, to Santa’s North Pole workshop, where his adopted daughter dreams of a boy she met following his route. Rich language and careful, efficient character development make the collection an absorbing and sophisticated read, each story surprisingly fresh despite the constraints of a shared theme.

It’s that rarest of short story collections: There’s not a single lump of coal. (Short stories. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05930-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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

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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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