Harrowing and worthwhile; a call-to-action from the anti-racist insights of a generation of Black activists.

THIS IS MY AMERICA

Showcases one family’s persistent and courageous fight for freedom against a broken criminal justice system.

At the center of this story is Tracy Beaumont, a Black 17-year-old. Every week she’s been writing letters to Innocence X (think Innocence Project or the Equal Justice Initiative) on behalf of her father, who has been sentenced to death row in their home state of Texas, wrongfully accused of murder. There’s less than a year until it will be all over. Yet Tracy holds on deeply to hope that in her small-town neighborhood and across the U.S. people will recognize failures in justice. This is thrown into jeopardy when her older brother, Jamal, a local track star, is accused of killing a White girl. Could these two cases be connected? Tracy, an emerging journalist, has to wrestle with the present-day legacy of an overwhelmingly racist history, needing support not only from family, but also a strong legal team and, just maybe, a good cop, if there are any to be found. Johnson’s debut draws on her own experiences as an activist to offer a realistic depiction of reckoning with the complex and too-often-fatal issues that plague Black Americans today. Her belief in the power of social movements shines through, inciting a new generation of social change activists to be called into service of transformative change.

Harrowing and worthwhile; a call-to-action from the anti-racist insights of a generation of Black activists. (author’s note, additional resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11876-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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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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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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