A sensitively told coming-of-age story, although it centers a White point of view on segregation.


A high school girl moves from the urban, integrated North to the rural, recently desegregated South in this YA novel.

Moving from a town she loves, Walled Lake, Michigan, to Curlew, Kentucky, is a difficult transition for 15-year-old Laura Graham; her family has already moved six times for her father’s job prospects. It’s February 1959, and last autumn, Laura watched her new school, Morrisburg High, on TV being forcibly desegregated by court order. Red-haired, freckled, and White, Laura favors desegregation but isn’t looking forward to a small rural school lacking many amenities. It helps some that Laura’s father grew up in Morrisburg and that everyone in town knows her uncle. She feels some culture shock, like having to say “sir,” but Laura soon bonds with Cherie Taylor—another Yankee transplant with similar musical tastes—and gains a boyfriend in senior Rick Holder. The area’s continuing de facto segregation bothers Laura, and when racists bully Althea Whitman, a Black classmate, she feels like a coward for not speaking up. Prejudice leads to tragedy when White parents insist on holding prom at a 50-miles-distant hotel that doesn’t allow Blacks. In her third YA novel, Stice illuminates the painful issues that linger after nominal desegregation. These are complicated; for example, her well-meaning attempt to apologize to Althea receives unexpected push back: “What good’s it do me for you to be sorry about anything?” Laura’s first-person narration, however, necessarily gives the story only a White voice. The story does get additional layers from Laura’s college dreams, which bring her into conflict with Rick’s desire to marry and underscores her father’s money and job struggles.

A sensitively told coming-of-age story, although it centers a White point of view on segregation.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 265

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

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Sweet, honest, and filled with personality.


Many begin college with hopes of personal reinvention, and Alex Blackwood and Molly Parker are no exception.

Apparently opposite in every way, both girls nevertheless arrive for their freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh with the same goal in mind: to fundamentally change the way others perceive them and get their dream girls. Easy-peasy. Molly, whose mom is a transracial adoptee from Korea and whose father is assumed White, was socially anxious in high school. She worries that her close friendship with her mother holds her back. Willowy, blond Alex, who is implied White, has never once found herself at a loss in a social situation, and yet her fairy-tale story of adolescent beauty and wit is tempered by having a single mom whose struggles with alcohol abuse meant shouldering responsibilities far beyond her years. Utilizing tried and true tropes, married couple Lippincott and Derrick cut right to the heart of the matter when it comes to the mysteries of romance. Queerness itself is never the motivator of the drama, and gratifyingly, both girls find in one another the means to explore and unpack complexities of life unrelated to their sexualities. Nothing is made simplistic—not Alex’s relationship to self-expression and conventional beauty standards, nor Molly’s experiences of culture and community in a world that has expectations of her based on her racial identity.

Sweet, honest, and filled with personality. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9379-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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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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