A contemplative narrator, a mild mystery.

A North Carolina teen navigates choppy waters when her cousin’s death rocks their small marina town.

Nieman’s novel starts off like a gritty noir, with first-person narrator Maggie Warshauer revealing some of what she knows about her cousin Charisse Swicegood and dropping early hints that she has something to hide. The violent events of the fated night leading up to Charisse’s death unfold as a capable detective pieces together the tragedy. As Maggie’s observations—informed by her fascination with Linnaeus and his classification of species—are carefully revealed, her inner thoughts and statements to others become tangled up, sometimes in less-than-revelatory ways. Truth and rumors surrounding the case are spliced with episodes of Maggie’s ongoing explorations, letters written by her alcoholic father, and snippets of town gossip. Along the way, readers discover more about Maggie’s troubled background and tensions with her “so-called mother,” who left the family. The sense of place is strongly developed, but the characters’ motives are not fleshed out enough to buoy the tension. Maggie’s confidence brims with a mature bravado but often clashes with her negative physical self-descriptions. Themes of sexual awakening are raised; they drip with phrasing that conflates desire, regret, confusion, and fantasy as Maggie wrestles with internalized shame. Maggie and Charisse are White; there is racial diversity in the supporting cast.

A contemplative narrator, a mild mystery. (Mystery. 16-18)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64603-179-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Fitzroy Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.

After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019


A sweet, slow-paced novel about a teen learning to love her body.

Greer Walsh wishes she were one person...unfortunately, with her large breasts, she feels like she’s actually three.

High school sophomore and math whiz Greer is self-conscious about her body. Maude and Mavis, as she’s named her large breasts, are causing problems for her. When Greer meets new kid Jackson Oates, she wishes even more that she had a body that she didn’t feel a need to hide underneath XXL T-shirts. While trying to impress Jackson, who has moved to the Chicago suburbs from Cleveland, Greer decides to try out for her school’s volleyball team. When she makes JV, Greer is forced to come to terms with how her body looks and feels in a uniform and in motion as well as with being physically close with her teammates. The story is told in the first person from Greer’s point of view. Inconsistent storytelling as well as Greer’s (somewhat distracting) personified inner butterfly make this realistic novel a slow but overall enjoyable read. The story contains elements of light romance as well as strong female friendships. Greer is white with a Christian mom and Jewish dad; Jackson seems to be white by default, and there is diversity among the secondary characters.

A sweet, slow-paced novel about a teen learning to love her body. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1524-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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