Family melodrama in theory, genuine identity crisis in execution.

PAST PERFECT LIFE

When you realize your life is a lie fabricated by your dad, the daunting task of facing college applications suddenly loses its severity.

Ally Smith lives a financially humble but socially rich life with her single dad in a small Wisconsin town. She’s an unofficial member of the Gleason clan (the first family of Valley Falls) and an official top-notch student vying for college scholarships. But those application essay questions are the worst—particularly the one about a significant life event. Ugh. As a dorky, predictable creature of habit routinely indulging in Taco Tuesdays and Football Sundays with her dad, there’s nothing blockbuster about her life’s lovely little cadence. A red alert shatters Ally’s same-old existence when her social security number on a college application is revealed to be falsified. Confusion evolves to anger as she learns that her father has kept a life-shattering secret from her—and the changes that follow force Ally to leave behind everything she knows. This novel takes the self-identity trope and intensifies its scope, layering in the mature navigation of family relationships. An honest pace, salt-of-the-earth protagonist, and sympathetic, well-rounded characters keep the conflict from being hyperbolic even though Ally’s story becomes national news. Ally, friends, and family are presumably white.

Family melodrama in theory, genuine identity crisis in execution. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0092-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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