An illuminating, recommended read.

FREAKS LIKE US

Jason is “Freak” to his peers and even his ADHD friend Drip, but not to Sunshine, who—though selectively mute—shares her thoughts and feelings with him. Now she’s vanished, and Jason, whose schizophrenia has shaped his life, is a suspect in her disappearance.

Seniors Jason, Drip and Sunshine have ridden the short bus and gone through school labeled SED—that's “Severely Emotionally Disturbed, for you long-bus people.” Bullying at the hands of kids with behavioral disabilities goes unreported and unpunished, but the trio’s alliance made life bearable in their catchall special ed program, where kids with vastly different abilities and disabilities are treated as extensions of their diagnosis acronyms. (Jason, whose irony is well-honed, calls them “alphabets.”) Desperate to find Sunshine, Jason and Drip are wary of sharing all they know with adults who see them as extensions of their stigma. As the FBI investigates, Jason’s always-shaky world threatens to come apart. Not taking “fuzzy pills” keeps his brain sharp, but the voices plaguing him grow louder. Jason carries Sunshine’s secrets—should he break his promise not to tell? While the action is occasionally slow and repetitive—suspense arising more from Jason’s internal battles than external action—readers will stick with him; he’s sympathetic, compelling and smart. Navigating a harsh world, the psychologist author makes clear, amounts to an education in itself.

An illuminating, recommended read. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-872-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

The lives of two girls named Hannah, living in different centuries on different continents, intersect.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Dory is an English peasant living a harsh existence in 1347. Hannah Doe is a resident of Belman Psychiatric Hospital in 2023 New York City, brought in after being found on the street experiencing hallucinations and screaming something about a castle. Modern-day Hannah periodically enters a catatonic state, something the staff refer to as her “going to the castle.” Columbia psychology student Jordan Hassan is a new intern at Belman, and his interest is piqued by this girl no one knows much about. He decides to play detective and try to discover her history himself. Meanwhile, in the medieval England storyline, Hannah Dory tries to save her village from starvation by sneaking into the baron’s castle but finds herself swept up in a fight between the new baron and his rival. The book sustains a breakneck pace with short chapters and many cliffhangers that will keep readers’ interest. Patterson’s author’s note includes a list of mental health resources and describes his experience of working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. The narrative thoughtfully centers mental illness and touches on complex topics like suicide. Whiteness is the default; Jordan is cued as Muslim.

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-41172-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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