Messily human and sincerely insightful.

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ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DIVE INTO THE WATERS OF THE WORLD

From the Aristotle and Dante series

As the final year of high school approaches, Ari and Dante explore their love for each other—and their love for others—in Sáenz’s long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

For Ari, his world’s beginning to open up. After years of silence, his father begins to share more about his experiences in Vietnam and the ensuing trauma, rebuilding their relationship. Once a nuisance in Ari’s life, Gina and Susie now seem like the allies he needs to flourish, leading to even more potential friendships in surprising ways. And then there’s Dante, the boy who “found me in a swimming pool one day and changed my life.” Embarking on a relationship, Ari and Dante navigate the joys (a camping trip that takes their journey to a new level) and pains (uncertainties about life after high school) of young love. Throughout, the harsh truths of life circle the two young men: the specter of Ari’s imprisoned brother, who makes a memorable appearance; questions of what constitutes one’s sexual and cultural identities (“We’ll never be Mexican enough. We’ll never be American enough”); and the AIDS pandemic, whose tremors fill the airwaves and affect their community. Sáenz packs a whole lot into these pages, but it’s a testament to the characters that he’s created that it never feels like too much. There’s an unhurried quality to the author’s wistful, tender prose that feels utterly intimate.

Messily human and sincerely insightful. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9619-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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