A compelling exploration of mental illness.

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DEFINITIONS OF INDEFINABLE THINGS

Two depressed teens navigate their disorders and their love life.

Seventeen-year-old Reggie Mason has withdrawn from her school and family, spending her days depressed, alone, and mad at the world. While picking up a prescription at CVS, Reggie meets fellow white teen Snake, and the pair strikes up an unlikely courtship. Unfortunately, Snake’s ex-girlfriend happens to be Reggie’s former childhood friend Carla, also white. Carla also happens to be seven months pregnant with Snake’s baby. Told from Reggie’s first-person perspective, the novel explores the effects depression can have on a person in even the most bizarre of circumstances. The author handles the mental illness angle well, confronting it squarely without turning her novel into an overblown, weepy TV movie. The author also wisely positions Reggie and Carla as reconnecting friends as opposed to girls fighting over a boy, providing a refreshing dramatic avenue. Less exciting is Snake, who is as toxic to the narrative as he is to Reggie and Carla. The tattooed, self-absorbed, wishy-washy aspiring artist leans hard on his mental illness and often brings those around him down as well. These character defects work thematically, but it is a sincere drag whenever Snake enters the picture. Reggie’s relationship with her parents is much more interesting; a late reveal about her past feels clunky in the moment but reshapes enough in hindsight to be worth it.

A compelling exploration of mental illness. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-80504-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss...

TELL ME THREE THINGS

Jessie’s unassimilated grief over her mother’s death makes her dad’s abrupt marriage to Rachel, a wealthy widow he met online, and their subsequent move from Chicago to her mansion in Los Angeles feel like betrayal.

Rachel’s son wants nothing to do with Jessie. Her first week at his private school is agonizing. When she gets an email from “Somebody Nobody,” claiming to be a male student in the school and offering to act as her “virtual spirit guide,” Jessie’s suspicious, but she accepts—she needs help. SN’s a smart, funny, supportive guide, advising her whom to befriend and whom to avoid while remaining stubbornly anonymous. Meanwhile, Jessie makes friends, is picked as study partner by the coolest guy in AP English, and finds a job in a bookstore, working with the owner’s son, Liam. But questions abound. Why is Liam’s girlfriend bullying her? What should she do about SN now that she’s crushing on study-partner Ethan? Readers will have answers long before Jessie does. It’s overfamiliar territory: a protagonist unaware she’s gorgeous, oblivious to male admiration; a jealous, mean-girl antagonist; a secret admirer, easily identified. It’s the authentic depiction of grief—how Jessie and other characters respond to loss, get stuck, struggle to break through—devoid of cliché, that will keep readers engaged. Though one of Jessie’s friends has a Spanish surname, rich, beautiful, mostly white people are the order of the day.

Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss when life itself means inevitable change. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53564-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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