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THE LIGHTNING CIRCLE

An inviting take on feminine wisdom and the power of collective self-transformation.

Seventeen-year-old Canadian camp counselor Nora Nichols’ boyfriend has broken up with her right before her arrival at the all-girls Camp Cradle Rock in West Virginia.

The “wounds / are still tender,” and Nora is hoping to leave everything behind, concentrate on getting to know her fellow counselors, and embark on “a fresh start.” Sitting in the Lightning Circle, a tradition inspired by a legendary camp story that builds a connection between the six young women counselors, Nora finds self-love and healing from the pain of unrequited love and rejection. The interconnectedness that “passes / from hand to hand” in their circle is metaphorically compared to the “electricity” of lightning. This story in journal form emphasizes sisterhood. In the poem “The Recovery Position,” one counselor reveals an eating disorder. The counselors support the younger campers with their own concerns—homesickness, fitting in socially, getting a first period. The free-verse poetry’s accessible diction speaks to teenage voices and is punctuated with nature imagery, symbolism, and details that vividly and nostalgically recall traditional camp experiences, from fingers that are “sticky from sucking on watermelon rinds” to “dancing barefoot in the grass.” Nora writes about shells, mountains, rivers, trees, and horses, and each poem is accompanied by beautiful illustrations, including portraits of the campers and images of everyday objects and flora and fauna. Ultimately, Nora movingly reflects on the perspective she’s gained from “this magical space.” Characters largely read white.

An inviting take on feminine wisdom and the power of collective self-transformation. (Verse fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9781774882498

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

A standing ovation.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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