An unforgettable story of personal growth in an exquisitely rendered setting.

HIMAWARI HOUSE

A shared house in Tokyo brings five young people together.

After moving to the U.S. as a child with her Japanese mother and White American father, Nao has returned to Japan for a gap year before college to explore the language and cultural heritage that she deliberately shed—at great emotional cost—in an effort to assimilate. She moves into Himawari House, which she shares with Korean Hyejung and Chinese Singaporean Tina, girls who are attending the same Japanese language institute as Nao. Also resident are two Japanese brothers, outgoing, friendly Shinichi and taciturn, broodingly handsome Masaki. Blending English, Japanese, Korean, and Singlish, the group bonds over meals, excursions, K-dramas, and never-ending conversations about life, love, and family. Becker perfectly captures the heady roller coaster of feelings that accompanies cross-cultural immersion, with ordinary activities serving as barometers of successful adaptation in a new country. The personal stakes of each encounter with Japanese life are even higher for Nao, throwing into relief her internal struggles over her identity. Nao is the focal point, but Hyejung and Tina are well developed, with complex, heartstring-tugging backstories. Most of the text is bilingual, but the occasional use of Japanese or Korean alone effectively mirrors the dislocation of language learners. The predominantly photorealistic art is enhanced with a range of stylized techniques that masterfully communicate emotion. Altogether, this work exemplifies what the graphic novel format can achieve.

An unforgettable story of personal growth in an exquisitely rendered setting. (note on accents) (Graphic fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23556-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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