One of Hamilton's deeply felt family stories, this contains a ghost, a time trip, a retarded brother's death, a case of child abuse, and a largely absent mother who turns up with a boyfriend and a car her children never knew of—but this is all integrated into a fully imagined novel that conforms to none of the obvious YA patterns such components would suggest. Brother Rush, the ghost, appears in the first paragraph. Dressed in a suit "good enough for a funeral or a wedding," he's "the stone finest dude Tree had ever seen in her short life of going-on fifteen years." Soon the ghost is transporting Tree into scenes involving himself, a young woman, and the woman's two children—the baby girl she dotes on and the boy, a little older, whom she ties to the bedpost and whips when annoyed. And Tree comes to realize that the baby is herself, Brother is her uncle who died young, the "poor sad little boy" is her older teenage brother Dab, whom she lives with and loves, and Viola, the woman, is her mother (Tree calls her Muh Vy, or M'Vy), who works as a practical nurse and comes home only on Saturdays to stock the pantry and say hello. Now Dab is sick and in pain, and Tree is worried. When M'Vy does show up, followed by her kind, solicitous boyfriend Silversmith (this too is short for his real full name), they rush Dab to the hospital where Vy, now all concern, reveals that he has porphyria, the disease that took her three brothers. This indelible scene is lit as if by the hospital's harsh glare—with Vy calling for a doctor and explaining Dab's case to the nurse (who is "crisp, like a cold head of lettuce"), the nurse insisting that forms must be filled out before a doctor or stretcher can be called, and Silversmith left to stand through it all with the unconscious Dab in his arms. When Dab dies a few days later, Tree goes a little berserk, tearing around the apartment and lashing out at her mother—but appeased by the fine funeral Vy provides—before settling down to accept what will undoubtedly be an easier life. Like other Hamilton novels this has its rough edges, but they are outweighed here by the blazing scenes, the intensity of Tree's feelings, the glimpses of Dab through her eyes, and the rounded characterization of Vy.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0380651939

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1982

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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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Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read.


Reviving a friendship that goes back almost 20 years, Zoboi writes with Exonerated Five member Salaam, exploring racial tensions, criminal injustice, and radical hope for a new day.

Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed When They See Us tells the story of Salaam’s wrongful conviction as a boy, a story that found its way back into the national conversation when, after nearly 7 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared his name. Although it highlights many of the same unjust systemic problems Salaam faced, this story is not a biographical rendering of his experiences. Rather, Zoboi offers readers her brilliance and precision within this novel in verse that centers on the fictional account of 16-year-old Amal Shahid. He’s an art student and poet whose life dramatically shifts after he is accused of assaulting a White boy one intense night, drawing out serious questions around the treatment of Black youth and the harsh limitations of America’s investment in punitive forms of justice. The writing allows many readers to see their internal voices affirmed as it uplifts street slang, Muslim faith, and hip-hop cadences, showcasing poetry’s power in language rarely seen in YA literature. The physical forms of the first-person poems add depth to the text, providing a necessary calling-in to issues central to the national discourse in reimagining our relationship to police and prisons. Readers will ask: Where do we go from here?

Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read. (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299648-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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