A defiant love letter to queer youth; honest, brutal, and more important than ever.

CAN'T TAKE THAT AWAY

Genderqueer Carey seeks to become the next Elphaba amid teenage struggles with relationships and queerphobia.

Things haven’t been the same since Carey came out: Their former best friend, Joey, has been avoiding them, and they’ve been dealing with constant microaggressions from school bully Max and conservative teacher Mr. Jackson. It’s not all bad however, because they have their idol Mariah Carey; other best friend, Monroe; and new crush, Cris, to help them out. Now they just need to rock the auditions for the school’s production of Wicked. Pop-culture references abound, firmly rooting Carey’s world in time, but this works in the narrative’s favor, as it deals with topical issues. Scenes of targeted violence and discussions of suicidal ideation make this a tough read, but one shining light stands out: Carey will not be silenced. LGBTQ+ identities are prevalent, including bisexual, lesbian, gay, and genderqueer characters in the main cast. Love interest Cris is Filipino and Greek, and other characters are ethnically diverse; Carey is White. Mental health is discussed often, particularly issues caused by intolerance, and Carey is shown attending therapy sessions. While the narrative often reads like a tragedy, Salvatore takes great care to show that the lives of Carey and their friends are anything but and clearly sends a message of support for those striving to be their true selves.

A defiant love letter to queer youth; honest, brutal, and more important than ever. (author's note, resources, guide to protesting, playlist) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0530-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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