Fills a need for representation—but not entirely successfully.

TREMENDOUS THINGS

A fat teen gains self-confidence in a quest to get the girl.

Fourteen-year-old Wilbur Alberto Nuñez-Knopf is still trying to recover from his “Number One Defining Moment.” Upon entering seventh grade after being home-schooled, Wil’s deeply embarrassing time-capsule letter was found and shared by a classmate on social media. Now dubbed “Wank” by peers, the straight, White Toronto teen is a social pariah. Wil’s luck starts to change when Charlie, a beautiful French exchange student, is placed at his house for the week. Wil’s feelings for Charlie come fast, but class bully Tyler (the “Chris Hemsworth” to Wil’s “Napoleon Dynamite”) hooks up with her instead. In an attempt to avoid being friend-zoned yet again when he visits Charlie in France, Wil agrees to let his gay friends and 85-year-old neighbor “do a Queer Eye” and make him over. But will it be enough? Nielsen’s quirky portrayal of a sensitive male with a working-class, two-mom family is welcome, and the tone is mostly light and fun. However, many of the characters—unfortunately especially Charlie—lack sufficient depth to move beyond trope territory. Though body-shaming is often called out and at least one fat character is full of confidence and self-acceptance, the repeated use of “some pig” (from Charlotte’s Web) as an affirmation and the intense emphasis on size toe the line between reclamation and fatphobic objectification. There is some ethnic diversity in secondary characters.

Fills a need for representation—but not entirely successfully. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6838-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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