A tense teen thriller that is half mind-game, half misery lit—call it 50 Shades of Grey Area.

BEWARE THAT GIRL

Predators become prey in this private school novel.

Kate O’Brien is the new scholarship student at Waverly Academy in New York City, but she’s also a seasoned con artist armed with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and she intends to do anything and use anyone in order to get away from her past and into Yale. Kate targets Olivia Sumner in order to get out of poverty and in with the popular girls, but she finds her cold calculations tempered by friendship. Kate’s first-person narration proudly details her manipulative methods (with flashbacks to a traumatic childhood that offers motive), while the third-person voice in Olivia’s chapters goes from detached to disjointed as she pops Ativan like Altoids but slowly spills her secrets. Kate and Olivia, both white, think they can swim with the sharks, yet both are outclassed when a man complicates matters, and only Kate can see the sociopath beneath the suave charm. Shallowly drawn schoolmates are also saddled with enough psychological issues to fill Kate’s beloved DSM but otherwise fulfill rich-girl, private school stereotypes and provide background color. Toten’s use of sexual predation and parental abuse as plot devices is problematic, but she also delivers a social-climbing satire with a ridiculous resolution, making for a reading experience that feels simultaneously riveting and like rubbernecking.

A tense teen thriller that is half mind-game, half misery lit—call it 50 Shades of Grey Area. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-50790-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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

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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