Awards & Accolades

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A fast-paced, character-driven novel about a girl going her own way.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A teenager makes a huge change in her life to follow her athletic dreams in Girardi’s YA novel.

Julia Medina comes from a family of quarterbacks in small-town Pennsylvania. Football is their life, but as the youngest child and only girl, she ended up playing volleyball, instead. She’s expected to play hard and get scouted for an athletic scholarship during her senior year of high school. Around her 18th birthday, Julia starts to think about what she really wants, and she’s not sure it’s playing volleyball. She’s good at it, but her drive and passion for the sport have faded. Still, the Medinas are not a family of quitters, and after she gets elected team captain, it becomes even harder to leave the sport behind. Playing football with her brothers and friends on her birthday just solidifies her need to do something different and follow her true desires. But just as Julia decides that she’s going to try out for the open quarterback position on the Iron Valley Vikings football team, her boyfriend, Owen Malone, announces his decision to do the same. Girardi offers a coming-of-age novel that will resonate with teens who remain committed to their goals even when life seems to throw every possible obstacle in their way. The author wastes no time by jumping right into the plot and keeping the story moving at a brisk but pleasing pace. Julia’s fears about disappointing her friends and family while still wanting to play the game she loves make her a highly sympathetic character. The cast of secondary players, including her brothers and grandmother, comes across as genuine and adds extra humor and just the right amount of nonsports drama.

A fast-paced, character-driven novel about a girl going her own way.

Pub Date: March 3, 2022


Page Count: 333

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022


Although it may not satisfy as a novel, its characters will no doubt resonate with teen readers who share their struggles...

A new group of students join Mr. Ward’s poetry class in the companion novel to Bronx Masquerade (2003).

A group of black, white, Asian, and Latinx high school students in Mr. Ward’s class practice the art of poetry in preparation for a weekly open-mike reading each Friday. Through poetry, the students navigate their concerns and fears about themselves, their families, and their futures. As they prepare for the class’s culminating event—a poetry slam competition—the students bond and grow more comfortable revealing themselves through their poems. Each student’s story is introduced and explored in rotating first-person chapters. There’s brown (not black) Puerto Rican Darrian, an aspiring journalist who lost his mother to cancer; 16-year-old Jenesis, a blue-eyed, blonde, black girl who worries what will happen when she ages out of the foster-care system at 18; Chinese-American Li, who hides her love of poetry from her parents; African-American Marcel, whose father wasn’t the same when he returned home from prison; and several others. Unfortunately, the characters’ personal struggles remain largely static throughout the novel, and there’s no overarching plot or compelling conflict among them. Much of the dialogue feels forced and doesn’t ring true as the voices of present-day teens; aside from a few poignant moments, the students’ poetry tends to be heavy-handed.

Although it may not satisfy as a novel, its characters will no doubt resonate with teen readers who share their struggles and aspirations. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24688-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017


Will delight readers looking for a romance with humor and heart.

Christmas is coming, but all is not merry and bright for Frankincense Wood.

Francie’s best friend, Alice Kim, is going to a different school, and it’s getting harder to connect. The 15-year-old is also dealing with cruel ongoing teasing from some boys following her first kiss two years earlier. Francie works at the Hollydale Holiday Shop, the family store filled with memories of her beloved late grandfather. Her overbearing Aunt Carole is implementing efficient, regimented processes in hopes of turning around the store’s financial situation. When Francie offhandedly refers to herself as Santa’s Intern while promoting the shop on a local cable-access show, they are inundated with letters requesting things from Santa. Meanwhile, Francie is hoping for a second chance at kissing, this time with cute transfer student Hector Ramirez. When a heartfelt letter inspires Francie to raise money to buy books for kids using local food pantries, she, Hector, and their classmate Ellie Baptiste work on a short film for a school project that also serves as a book drive fundraiser. A bonus: lots of time together with her new crush. The romantic plotline is strong but does not overshadow the treatment of friendship, grief, money worries, and more. Readers will relate to Francie’s feelings of mortification about the boys’ shaming of her. Francie and her family are coded White; Alice has Korean ancestry, Hector reads as Latinx, and Ellie is cued as Black.

Will delight readers looking for a romance with humor and heart. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7883-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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