The twists and heartbreaks captivate despite tragic inevitabilities.

THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES

From the Hunger Games series , Vol. 4

An origin story for both President Snow and the Hunger Games as we know them.

Coriolanus Snow has the right family name, a prestigious address, talent, and charisma—but unless he wins a prize to pay for university, it’s all for nothing, as his family’s wealth came from the now obliterated District 13. He must succeed in his final project of being a mentor in the Hunger Games, but his District 12 girl tribute assignment at first feels damning. However, Lucy Gray Baird is vibrant and wild, a singer and performer with star power; she’s perfect for Coriolanus, who has been tasked with boosting the grim, lackluster games that, early in the shift from mock war to sporting spectacle, are even more brutal and unpredictable. Coriolanus is pulled between Mengelian Dr. Gaul’s twisted mentorship and connections with sympathetic foils Lucy Gray (which veers romantic) and compassionate classmate Sejanus. Conflicted Coriolanus thinks of himself as a good person in an impossible situation but also as exceptional—a belief with a high price. Collins humanizes him as superficially heroic and emotionally relatable while also using him for a vehicle for philosophical questions. Though readers know how he will eventually answer the questions explicitly asked of him, the central question is why, resulting in both a tense, character-driven piece and a cautionary tale. There is some mention of diversity in skin tone; Coriolanus and Lucy Gray seem to be white.

The twists and heartbreaks captivate despite tragic inevitabilities. (Science fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63517-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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