THE OTHER SIDE

A suspicious death plunges a Toronto boy deep into the trenches of his paternal grandfather’s past as a German soldier during World War II.

Twelve-year-old Liam Reimold, who is Jewish on his mother’s side, has more to juggle than soccer balls: Tryouts for a prestigious soccer academy are looming, the first step toward his dream of playing for Germany, and his beloved grandfather is terminally ill. And then Liam discovers the body of a teenage girl, washed up on the beach. What might have been a simple whodunit becomes a powerful exploration of family secrets, trauma, and grief, enlivened by the exhilarating furor of soccer. Liam’s sharp, ruminative narration fully immerses readers in his journey. School days and soccer games carry the same emotional intensity as visits to his grandfather or intrusive flashbacks to finding the dead girl in a painfully accurate depiction of post-traumatic stress. Strong family bonds create some of the novel’s most moving scenes, as when Liam struggles to reconcile hatred for his grandfather’s actions during the war with love for the person who taught him everything. Many characters, most of whom are White, are painstakingly sketched, with complex inner lives. However, Liam’s Black friend Alessia is more wise mentor than fully rounded tween. Although the story explores the complexity of individual actions in relation to the Holocaust, Alessia praises Liam’s present-day colorblindness, and his passivity in the face of overt racism is insufficiently explored.

Powerful if uneven. (glossary, selected sources, author interview) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-88995-614-8

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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