TAKING CARE OF TERRIFIC

A bright but most unlikely caper, set in Boston's Public Gardens where Enid, 14, babysits overprotected little Joshua Cameron. (On their first day out she starts to "love" him.) In the Gardens—where Enid, who hates her real name, becomes Cynthia, and Joshua becomes Tom Terrific—the two meet tall, black Hawk, in his 30s or 40s, who plays the saxophone, and an old bag lady who mumbles that the popsicle man no longer carries her favorite flavor, root beer: ". . . they never asked anybody, really, they just decided that about root beer without consulting anyone, they always do that. . . ." Well, Enid/Cynthia gets the idea that all the bag ladies should picket the popsicle man. Hawk organizes the ladies, and the event is a success. . . which only spurs Enid on to a grander scheme: taking the bag ladies on a midnight ride in a Swan Boat. ("There are 24 seats on each Swan Boat. I pictured 24 bag ladies, erect as royalty, their eyes bright. . . .") Hawk, implausibly, goes along with the scheme; Enid's friend Seth Sandroff (dubbed General Sethsandroff for the occasion) shows up with a bolt cutter for the Swan Boats' cable; Enid brings "Tom," who's in her care that Saturday night (he's always wanted to ride in a Swan Boat); and then the bag ladies appear: "Coming now from behind the bushes, statues, and trees," they gather on the dock "like a congregation standing in a dim cathedral." On the boat, they all sing "Stardust" to Hawk's sax; and when the song ends they are all arrested (without serious consequence, however). From the subsequent newspaper writeups, Enid learns that Hawk is Wilson B. Hartley, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at Harvard; Tom Terrific is heir to a fortune; and "their" bag lady is Julia Simpson Forbes, a millionaire's widow and resident of the Ritz. (The others are real bag ladies.) Lowry writes with verve and awareness, and she makes it clear that this is not to be taken for realism: "There was something about the whole enterprise that was like a fantasy, and that made the fake names seem okay." The trouble is that the fantasy comes off as a silly, sentimental-liberal pipedream that trivializes the realities she wants to transcend.

Pub Date: April 27, 1983

ISBN: 0395340705

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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