Riveting plot, sympathetic characters and straightforward narration studded with vivid, authentic detail: a top choice.

THE SECRET SKY

A NOVEL OF FORBIDDEN LOVE IN AFGHANISTAN

At its heart, this gripping debut by an Afghan-American journalist is a simple love story, but in today’s Afghanistan—riven by culture clashes, scarred by decades of war—nothing is simple.

Fatima’s tiny village is isolated from city amenities but not from war. Its Pashtun and Hazara families have endured heartbreaking losses and, amid crushing poverty, hold tight to what remains. The elderly woman teaching her to read recalls freer times, but Fatima, who’s Hazara and barely past puberty, faces a drastically limited future—her mother wants her married. When Fatima’s childhood Pashtun friend, Samiullah, returns from his madrassa, their mutual attraction grows. But even chaste meetings violate strict cultural edicts; transgressions can have lethal consequences. Their discovery by Sami’s cousin Rashid, embittered by jealousy and family tragedy, sets in motion events that change their lives, and those of their families and village, forever. All characters are Afghans, political attributions vague or neutral (the Taliban’s criticized but not vilified). Abawi reserves condemnation for the violent, twisted opportunists who take advantage of chaos. Juxtaposed with horrific events, the tone and stylistic conventions of lighter teen fare occasionally feel jarring. First-person, present-tense narration confines the story to the here and now, yet that immediacy brings closer this ancient, complicated country bound to ours.

Riveting plot, sympathetic characters and straightforward narration studded with vivid, authentic detail: a top choice. (author’s note, glossary) (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16078-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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