Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation.

SHOOT THE STORM

From the West 44 YA Verse series

Tragedy turns a top basketball prospect toward a life of hard, hurt-filled choices—but it’s never too late to become more than our pain.

When her loving ex-con father is assassinated, Aaliyah Davis’ already tumultuous life in Buffalo, New York, is turned upside down. A star hooper, like her father before her, and an unrepentant tomboy, to the chagrin of her absentee mother, 16-year-old Aaliyah experiences the sort of trauma no one should have to but that is unfortunately all too common. Her story is presented here in raw, poignant verse with first-person adolescent lyricism. With basketball no longer an effective distraction from her growing anger, a budding relationship with a schoolmate who’s suffered similarly from gun violence quickly turns into an opportunity for revenge. Until a stint in juvenile detention that pointedly parallels her father’s incarceration, learning to trust the right people proves to be disastrously difficult for Aaliyah and many of the young people in this complicated story of loss, betrayal, and widespread neglect—but it’s a hard-earned lesson that ultimately sets her free. Accessible for reluctant readers, the attractive design and fluid writing style make this a broadly appealing work. Main characters are Black.

Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation. (Verse novel. 12-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9785-9559-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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K-pop helps a cellist develop musically and emotionally in this novel filled with humor and theatrics.

XOXO

A driven young woman learns to balance expectations and priorities with heart and passion.

A vivid, comical scene of everyday life in Koreatown introduces narrator Jenny Jooyoung Go, a high school junior and classical cellist aiming for a top conservatory. While her single-minded focus yields technical perfection, competition judges deem Jenny lacking in soulful spark. Her Uncle Jay advises her to experience more of life and broaden her horizons. An opportunity soon beckons, and the plot unfolds like a minidrama amid the Los Angeles Korean Festival, launching Jenny and her new acquaintance, Jaewoo, on an accidental adventure that foreshadows romance. When her mom, a widowed immigration lawyer, needs to return to Seoul to care for her dying mother, Jenny negotiates to go along for her first visit to Korea. Attending Seoul Arts Academy, Jenny witnesses the institutional grooming of K-pop idols—including (surprise!) classmate Jaewoo, who, as it turns out, is popular band XOXO’s lead singer. She also shares in the student performers’ duty-bound lives: Behind the glamour, they are burdened with obligations to their communities that can require sacrifice of their personal happiness. Themes of responsibility, regret, and reconciliation weave through the intergenerational dynamics in Jenny’s family, adding dimension and depth. The author incorporates Korean honorifics to convey a conversational tone and signal dialogue occurring in both languages.

K-pop helps a cellist develop musically and emotionally in this novel filled with humor and theatrics. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302499-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A fresh, beautifully written look at high school sports that sparkles with strong female athletes.

WE ARE THE WILDCATS

“The girls who played varsity last season each still nurse a secret wound, the thinnest of scabs capping a mountain of scar tissue.”

The intense pressure that Coach exerts on these former field hockey champions is far less than what they place on themselves. They are tormented by last season’s championship loss: Ali and Kearson choked; Mel, the leading scorer, didn’t score at all; and Phoebe limped off the field. This year, the West Essex Wildcats—including new members Grace and Luci—are willing to give up romance, free time, and family for the privilege of being a Wildcat. At sleepovers before weekend games the girls enjoy dinner, movies, and bonding, but on this night, the first before the new season, devastating secrets are revealed. Anyone who raised a high school championship trophy—or dreams of doing so—will find Vivian’s (Stay Sweet, 2018, etc.) book powerfully familiar and sink deeply into this juicy read. The writing is both poetic and blunt, just like the badass Wildcats. The pace may frustrate—it takes a while to grasp that the book is not about the season but a series of perspectives and shocking reveals over the course of one long night. The end, while satisfying, lacks sophistication. Most main characters are white; Ali is Korean American, and Luci is Argentinian and white American.

A fresh, beautifully written look at high school sports that sparkles with strong female athletes. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3990-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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