An earnest examination of mental health in sports.

GEESE ARE NEVER SWANS

Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Things may not end happily ever after, but they do end just right.

FIVE DARK FATES

From the Three Dark Crowns series , Vol. 4

Four rival queens, civil war, vengeful ghosts, lethal mists, torture, madness…any happy ending seems very unlikely in this conclusion of a pitch-black fantasy quartet.

As Arsinoe turns to low magic in a frantic effort to cure Jules’ legion curse, Mirabella abandons the rebel army for Katharine. But the dead queens possessing the Queen Crowned grow ever more bloodthirsty, and all Fennbirn Island may have to pay the cost. The earlier books assembled huge casts to wrangle and an enormous tangle of plot threads to tie off, so it’s no surprise that even with its considerable heft, this tome feels a bit crowded and rushed. But if Blake (Two Dark Reigns, 2018, etc.) relies on a deus ex machina (or, more accurately, a dea ex caverna) to resolve otherwise intractable narrative knots, she does not stint on her characters: Each one is a complicated, sympathetic individual with intelligible motivations despite their often bloody deeds. As the story digs into the legendary history of Fennbirn’s matriarchal culture—apparently default white but also intriguingly default female and explicitly not default heterosexual—it gains greater depth and richness. Yet this world remains harsh, dark, and graphically violent, filled with impossible choices and dreadful sacrifices; As everyone fights, betrays, or tries to flee, all are inevitably drawn to the climactic clash that leaves no one unscathed.

Things may not end happily ever after, but they do end just right. (cast of characters, map) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-268617-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A timely, poignant page-turner about grief, love, and facing your fears.

THE COST OF KNOWING

For 16-year-old Alex, having a secret superpower is more of a curse than a blessing.

Ever since his parents’ deaths, Alex can see into the future—seconds, days, and years beyond the present of anything he touches. Rather than giving Alex an advantage, this supernatural gift gives him endless anxiety. Alex and his 12-year-old brother, Isaiah, live with their Aunt Mackie in an affluent suburban Chicago neighborhood. They are all Black. Alex keeps his secret powers from everyone, including his devoted Spanish-speaking girlfriend, Talia, whose family struggles to make ends meet. Alex’s constant visions interfere with his job at an ice cream shop and his intimate relationship with Talia. But when Alex has a vision foretelling Isaiah’s impending death, his anxiety goes through the roof: The clock is ticking, and he must journey into his ancestral past and grapple with what it means to be a man. This portrait of Black boys as sensitive, vulnerable, and complex is refreshing, unfolding within a powerful and provocative narrative about brotherly love and the insidiousness of racism. Morris seamlessly and beautifully weaves together multiple plotlines (including frank talk about sex) with crisp and sometimes humorous dialogue that always rings true.

A timely, poignant page-turner about grief, love, and facing your fears. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4545-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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