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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Summery fun and games with feeling.

THE SUMMER OF BROKEN RULES

A summer trip helps break 18-year-old Meredith Fox out of a haze of mourning.

Her cousin’s wedding means a return to Martha’s Vineyard, a well-loved destination but one filled with bittersweet memories. It’s been a year and a half since the sudden loss of Meredith’s sister, Claire, and the grief remains strong. Meredith, though, resolves to take this time to celebrate family and bridge the rifts resulting from ghosting friends. She didn’t plan on a meet-cute/embarrassing encounter with the groom’s stepbrother, Wit. Nor did she expect a wedding-week game of Assassin, a water-gun–fueled family tradition. What starts off as a pact of sharing strategic information with Wit grows into something more as the flirting and feelings develop. Only one person can win, though, and any alliance has an expiration date. To win and honor Claire, who was a master of the game, Meredith must keep her eye on the prize. Taking place over the course of a week, the narrative is tight with well-paced reveals that disrupt predictability and keep the plot moving. Early details are picked back up, and many elements come satisfyingly full circle. The short time frame also heightens the tension of this summer romance: What will happen when they leave the bubble of the Vineyard? The mix of budding romance, competitive hijinks, a close-knit circle, as well as dealing with loss make for a satisfying read. The main cast is White.

Summery fun and games with feeling. (family tree) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-029-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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