A poignant, exhilarating tale of a love affair gone to the dogs.

WHY WE BROKE UP

A toy truck, bottle caps, rose petals, a cookbook and a box full of other seemingly unobtrusive mementos are dumped on the doorstep of Ed Slaterton by his ex-girlfriend, Min. Their unlikely romance lasted just over a month.

On the exterior he’s a gorgeous basketball-jock douchebag; she’s an outspoken, outsider, romantic-movie buff with frizzy hair. They’re opposites, and no one else in the novel sees why they’re together. But as objects from the box are revealed in Kalman’s vividly rendered paintings, readers are taken beneath the surface of what will no doubt be one of the most talked-about romances in teen literature. Handler frames their lives together with a sharp, cinematic virtuosity that leaps off the pages. Their relationship sparks and burns with so much passion, honesty, enlightenment and wonder that readers will feel relieved when they finish those chapters that don’t end with “…and that’s why we broke up.” The ordinary becomes extraordinary: A thrift-store cookbook explodes into a madcap dinner party for an aging imaginary film star. A rubber band causes readers to wince in pain when it’s ripped from Min’s hair. Torn condom wrappers induce smiles of knowing amusement as Min jokingly describes her first time. All is lovingly connected via a roster of fantastically drawn films and stars that readers will wish actually existed. The novel’s only fault lies in its inevitable conclusion, which can't help but be a letdown after 300+ pages of blazing romance.

A poignant, exhilarating tale of a love affair gone to the dogs. (Romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-12725-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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More a story about falling in love with yourself than with a romantic interest, this novel will resonate with all readers...

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE

Love blooms between two teens—a white girl who refuses to be judged and a biracial boy who hides himself from judgment.

Libby Strout was once America's Fattest Teen, whose house had to be cut open to allow her to be taken to the hospital. After three years of weight loss and counseling, Libby's returning to school, where Jack Masselin is the big man on campus. Full of swagger and the life of the party, Jack has developed this persona to hide the truth about himself: he can't recognize faces due to a condition known as prosopagnosia—he doesn't even recognize himself except by his Afro. When Jack grabs Libby in a cruel “game” called Fat Girl Rodeo, she punches him in the mouth, and they both wind up in group counseling. Spending time together will inspire each of them to become stronger, and slowly a kind of friendship develops that turns into more. The narration alternates between the two, effectively getting readers into both kids’ heads. The discomfort and fear that Jack feels come through clearly, as he constantly rehearses the “identifiers” of everyone he knows in order to avoid embarrassing mistakes, as do Libby's particular anxieties: will she get stuck behind her desk? Will her peers ever see her for herself?

More a story about falling in love with yourself than with a romantic interest, this novel will resonate with all readers who’ve struggled to love themselves. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75592-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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