An affecting, if slow-paced, tale that sheds light on a difficult condition.

BUTTERFLIES & CHARACTERS

After being diagnosed with lupus, a teenage girl struggles to adapt in this YA novel.

Fifteen-year-old Rayanne Ericson lives with her mother and stepfamily in Savannah, Georgia, but regularly visits her Swedish father, Nils, in Ann Arbor, where he’s an economics professor at the University of Michigan. When she arrives on her latest trip, Ray is seriously ill, with red skin, a rash on her face, and painful and swollen joints; she’s fatigued and short of breath. Nils takes her to a rheumatologist, who diagnoses Ray with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus, also called lupus or SLE. With Michigan having better medical care, Ray accepts her father’s offer to move in with him. She’s got one friend her age there already, Charles Wong, whose mother is Nils’ best friend. Charles drives himself hard to reach his goal: being accepted into Caltech’s robotics program. He considers himself a geek, believing that his crush on model-gorgeous Ray is hopeless. As for Ray, she suddenly realizes that Charles is beautiful but thinks that, although she’s a talented artist, she is not smart enough for him and could be a distraction. Each has personal challenges to overcome if their friendship will ever become something more. In her second novel featuring a hero with lupus, Hsu deftly explains the symptoms, treatment, and prognosis of the disease. Beyond that, Charles and Ray expand their horizons over the course of the book. Their slowly developed romance is sweet but also becomes heated. Both have struggles that add emotional depth; Ray, for example, learns that her mother lied about Nils not wanting her. But momentum drags because of much repetition of well-established points, such as Charles’ belief that “girls like her didn’t date guys like me.”

An affecting, if slow-paced, tale that sheds light on a difficult condition.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73654-341-2

Page Count: 283

Publisher: Li-Mei Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2021

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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