A heartfelt, three-hankie exploration of a topic all too many teens must confront.

POSITIVELY BEAUTIFUL

High school junior Erin Bailey’s whole life changes when her mother is diagnosed with late stage breast cancer.

In an even more unkind twist of fate, Erin finds out that she has inherited a BRCA gene mutation, which means she has a significant risk of contracting reproductive cancer herself. This discovery, along with the loss of her beloved daredevil father in a flying accident a few years before and a less-than-stellar social life, puts Erin at the top of the list of teens facing tough, real-life dilemmas. Help comes in the form of friendly advice she receives from a girl on the BRCA gene website who offers Erin sanctuary on a remote island in Florida. A newly fledged pilot, Erin heads for Florida, hoping to meet up with her new friend. Although what she discovers there will surprise both Erin and readers, she finds support as well, enabling her to weather the further storms of college applications, more teen drama and the inevitable decline of her mother. Although some might look askance at Erin’s unconventional decision to take the genetic test at such a young age, mature teens will appreciate this carefully researched and authentic exposé of a difficult subject. Erin’s first-person, present-tense narration isn’t flashy, but it does get readers effectively in her groove.

A heartfelt, three-hankie exploration of a topic all too many teens must confront. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61963-341-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

HIT

A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability.

ROSIE LOVES JACK

A teen with Down syndrome runs away to find her boyfriend when her parents forbid their relationship.

Sixteen-year-old Rose Tremayne and her boyfriend, Jack, were made for each other. Jack, who was born with a brain injury, helps Rosie with reading and writing; Rosie calms his anger issues. But after a violent outburst, Jack is sent away—and Rosie’s parents think she should forget him. Rosie resolves to find Jack herself, taking the train to London alone and venturing into the city’s labyrinthine subway system. As she copes with transportation setbacks, she encounters assorted strangers—some kind and some with unsavory intentions. Though secondary characters lack depth, Rosie’s narration sympathetically expresses her determination, frustration, and naïveté in equal measure, and others’ patronizing and rude reactions to her disability are sadly realistic. However, much of the plot feels contrived. Despite Darbon’s efforts to show that Rosie is more than her Down syndrome, she doesn’t escape being a symbol of childlike innocence, a problematic trope. While a twist darkly demonstrates how people with intellectual disabilities can be targets of abuse, its execution is somewhat implausible. Portrayed primarily through Jack’s misspelled postcards and florid prose such as “The sun came out in my head and my heart grew wings and took me up to the moon,” the romance never quite feels three-dimensional; the ending, though touching, is rather pat. Most characters default to White.

An earnest but belabored story of love and cognitive disability. (author's note) (Romance. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68263-289-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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