A girl’s unusual journey to self-realization: disturbing, enchanting, and wise.

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An uncanny darkness engulfs a girl obsessed with hatred for her violent father in this debut YA novel.

This deeply resonant tale is one that will linger in the mind long after reading it. Ten-year-old Lily’s alcoholic, rage-filled father, Henry, first came into her life two years ago, showing up at Aunt Ruth’s mountain cabin where the girl; her sister, Rose; and their mother were living. Henry moved them from the forests of British Columbia to a suburb that “hung off the big city of Vancouver like a wart.” If Henry has any love to give, it is submerged in verbal and physical cruelty. Lily and her mother bear the brunt. Quiet, enigmatic Rose, Lily’s only comfort, keeps her head down. “Henry lived in the clench of my jaw and the curl of my fists,” says Lily, the novel’s remarkable first-person narrator. Her mother, consumed by mental illness and an untold sense of guilt—and trailed by an unsettling shadow that only Lily can see—won’t leave Henry. (The tragic past that binds them emerges with maximum, shocking effect over the course of the story.) Lily finds strength in her hatred. Her quest for enough power to get rid of Henry and get Mama back to the healing wildness of the forest leads her to an unsettling book of spells and a bleak path to retribution. Yet the benign influence of her astute aunt, the forest itself, and Calum, the mysterious boy Lily encounters there, offer a lighter path if she chooses to take it. Layers of meaning abound in Dunsmore’s expressive writing in this striking tale: “Summer crept along the landscape, poppies poked out of the ground, and bleeding hearts dripped with blossoms.” The crowd at a racetrack “was a tangle of spicy cologne and skunky armpits, musky horses, and manure so bitter I could taste it.” Caterpillars “wrapped like rings” around Calum’s fingers and “returned as butterflies to sleep in his hands.” How much of what happens is reality, magic, Lily’s imagination, or a mix of all three? Readers can decide.

A girl’s unusual journey to self-realization: disturbing, enchanting, and wise.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5255-6532-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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