Although cleverly formatted with a high-stakes plot, cis-normativity taints this feminist critique of toxic masculinity in...

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CHAOTIC GOOD

White cis girl Cameron Birch defeats trolls in the dungeons with a roll of her dice, but online the attack from anonymous haters never ends.

Seventeen-year-old Cameron wants vengeance for the cruel comments spamming her cosplay blog. Disguised in her twin brother’s clothes, she visits the only comic-book shop in town with the plan to reveal her true identity the moment the white, male clerk accepts her. Like magic, no one detects her, but she doesn’t count on making friends with Why, a boy with brown skin and a golden Afro, who invites her in her male guise to join a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. On top of the stress of keeping up the lie that she is a boy, Cameron’s future hangs in the balance with the upcoming portfolio review for her dream college. The story transitions between first-person prose and comics to represent shifts between Cameron’s real life and the role-playing fantasy. The comics add a deeper level of immersion by providing readers with visual representation of Cameron’s imagination. While the book rightly champions issues of consent and inclusion for cisgender girls in geek culture, Gardner’s choice to have Cameron dress as a guy for a prank perpetuates a dangerous association between gender expression and deception—a choice that undercuts her point.

Although cleverly formatted with a high-stakes plot, cis-normativity taints this feminist critique of toxic masculinity in geek culture. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-2080-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

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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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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