This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s...

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THE POET X

Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.

Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance.

Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266280-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Gorgeous and bloody, tender and violent, elegant, precise, and passionate; above all, completely addicting

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THREE DARK CROWNS

From the Three Dark Crowns series , Vol. 1

The opener to a pitch-black epic fantasy series horrifically upends the bonds of sisterhood.

Every generation, magically gifted triplet girls are born to rule Fennbirn, and it is the duty of each young queen to try to murder the others once they come of age. But this time only the elemental Mirabella has yet displayed any power, as the naturalist Arsinoe and poisoner Katherine are deemed weak and giftless. Although kindhearted Mirabella shows some reluctance to kill, both headstrong Arsinoe and abused Katherine are more than ready to employ any tactic to live...and win. Blake has constructed an insular, all-white, matriarchal society from convincing intimate details. As the personal lives, loves, and betrayals of the three queens are manipulated by their supporting factions, the intricate machinations of the plot never overwhelm the vivid, complicated characters of the queens and those closest to them; while it’s impossible not to sympathize with each, it is equally difficult to root for any of them. The omniscient third-person present-tense narration, switching every chapter among various players preparing for, scheming about, and even fleeing the upcoming ritual competition, employs sumptuous, poetic prose (if little of Blake’s trademark wit) with an odd detachment, creating a fablelike distance from even the grisly, shocking climax.

Gorgeous and bloody, tender and violent, elegant, precise, and passionate; above all, completely addicting . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238543-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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