A passionately wise, spectacularly hilarious and surpassingly humane outing from a master.

I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT

From the Tiffany Aching series , Vol. 4

Ask Tiffany Aching, and she’ll tell you: It’s not easy being a witch, especially when you’re only almost 16 years old.

It can’t be easy being Terry Pratchett, either, an author known foremost, perhaps, for his screamingly funny Discworld novels, of which this is the latest. Beneath everything he writes, however, even as he has readers howling helplessly with laughter, is a fierce, palpable love for his fellow human beings, however flawed they may be. A love that causes Tiffany over and over to square her shoulders beneath her pointy black hat and do what’s needful. He throws a lot at Tiffany, who crashed spectacularly into her calling when she armed herself with a skillet and, at the age of nine, ventured into Faerieland (which is not nearly as nice as it sounds) to steal her brother back from its Queen (The Wee Free Men, 2003). Here he challenges her with the Cunning Man, a centuries-old disembodied hatred that seeks ignorance and uses it—“Poison goes where poison’s welcome”—against witches. Themes of memory and forgetting run throughout this tale. Books preserve all memories, even the ones better consigned to oblivion. The Cunning Man is resurrected when Letitia, Tiffany’s erstwhile swain Roland’s fiancée (Pratchett confronts her with this betrayal, too) summons him inadvertently when trying to work a spell against Tiffany. But one of the Cunning Man’s MOs is wanton book burning, a calculated obliteration of memories. Witches, arguably, embody the accumulated wisdom of their craft, while the Cunning Man is a collective memory of evil. He operates by playing on fear and causing the common folk to forget what their witches have done for them. Tiffany must remember everything she’s gleaned from all the witches who have trained her to defeat him, and the key is a childhood memory the old Baron shares with her on his deathbed. It’s not all heavy stuff. Pratchett leavens Tiffany’s passage into adulthood with generous portions of assistance from the Nac Mac Feegle, the six-inch-high blue men whose love of boozin’, fightin’ and stealin’ is subordinate only to their devotion to Tiffany, their Hag o’ the Hills. When they utterly destroy the King’s Head while on an errand for Tiffany, they rebuild the pub—back-to-front, rendering it the King’s…oh, crivens, never mind. And even as he demands more and more of Tiffany—her beau engaged elsewhere, her old Baron gone, the people of the Chalk turned against her—he gives her an army of friends and someone who loves words as much as she does, someone who, like Tiffany and, one suspects, the author himself, knows that “forgiveness” sounds “like a silk handkerchief gently falling down.”

A passionately wise, spectacularly hilarious and surpassingly humane outing from a master.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-143304-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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A resounding success.

CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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