BEETLES, LIGHTLY TOASTED

Out to win the annual essay prize (subject: conservation), Andy devises three protein-rich recipes with unusual ingredients. Designed to elicit the sort of ingenuity the prize-donor likes to remember in his late fifth-grade son (lost in a tumble from a local Iowa silo), this year's topic at first provokes yawns. But when rival Cousin Jack enters, Andy is galvanized into action. Writing to an expert for ideas, he soon produces brownies flecked with crunchy beetles, crisp fried worms, and grub-laced egg salad, each of which is tried on unsuspecting friends and relatives, though Andy himself (the ultimate picky eater) abstains. Jack and Andy tie as winners, and Andy courageously faces the consequences: he consumes his inventions for the benefit of the local papers photographer—and to the satisfaction of the previous unwitting samplers. Reminiscent of Rockwell's every-popular How to Eat Fried Worms, this almost-as-funny story is a bit less frivolous. With its realistically-drawn extended farm family and classroom rivalries and friendships, it is more than humorous. Andy's aversion to prickly Aunt Wanda's cooking (featuring Okra Surprise) and his friendship with Sam, whose family has opened a soul-food restaurant that serves delicious food, suggest thoughtful consideration of what people find edible and why. And the final scene where the three boys share Andy's concoctions is not only hilarious but also one of those moments of truth where old antagonists see each other with new appreciation. This should be popular.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1417695315

Page Count: 134

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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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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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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