A keenly crafted thriller.

TIME BOMB

When a suburban high school is devastated by a bombing, a diverse group of teens gathers to find a way out.

Minor connections pre-exist among the group: biracial (black/white) Tad is on the football team with the popular Frankie, a white boy, and the pair may be a little more than just friends. Latino Z has been pegged as the class ne’er-do-well; Palestinian-American Rashid, an observant Muslim, feels extra conspicuous now that his beard has started growing. Of course, everyone knows the white daughter of a U.S. senator, the perfectly popular Diana. The wildcard is olive-skinned Cassandra, the new kid in school. When word reaches the gang that the bomber may still be inside the building, tensions rise and the small bonds just being forged threaten to disintegrate. The third-person perspective shifts chapter to chapter, letting readers into each of the character’s heads. Some of the characters are fuller than others (Z is frustratingly thin), but through their eyes the author lays out the geography of the school before the bombing and smartly paces the aftermath. Charbonneau makes the bold move of letting readers—though not all the characters—know who the bomber is right away. This pivots the suspense from a whodunit to a survival tale, and the author effectively charts the action, taking time to allow the kids to discuss current events and the perils of false assumptions.

A keenly crafted thriller. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-41670-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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An emotionally engaging and draining debut.

OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS

Two teenagers suffer through their first heartbreak.

Henry Page has spent his high school years with his nose to the grindstone, avoiding romantic relationships and focusing on becoming the editor of the school paper. At the start of his senior year Henry is offered the job, but there’s a catch: transfer student Grace Town is offered the gig as well, making the two white teens co-editors. Sparks fly as Henry works with the aloof, unkempt new girl, who walks with a cane. As Henry and Grace grow closer, Henry falls deeper for her even as he learns just how broken she is. In her debut, Sutherland mixes her love story with equal parts hope and ominous dread. There is never any doubt that this couple is marching toward romantic oblivion, but it’s an effectively drawn journey. The characters speak with a John Green–esque voice, but they are never overbearingly precocious. Narrator Henry’s a smartly rendered character, a decent kid who has goals and works hard to achieve them. His new goal is Grace’s affection, and the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object that is Grace’s emotional unavailability provides the novel some of its sharpest moments. When the walls tumble down, the connection between the two is clearly an unhealthy one, and the author pulls no punches, devastating Henry, Grace, and readers in equal measure.

An emotionally engaging and draining debut. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-54656-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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