This coming-of-age comedy is frothy, if uneven, fun.

PRETTY FUNNY FOR A GIRL

An English teen who struggles with body image dreams of following in the footsteps of famous funny women.

Haylah Swinton isn’t thin, girly, or boy crazy like her best friends, Chloe and Kas, but she is funny and dreams of pursuing a comedy career. When an otherwise forgettable school talent show reveals that cute, popular Leo Jackson is a gifted stand-up, Haylah, who’s called “Pig” at school at her insistence (her response to bullying), is instantly lovestruck. Unable to get up the nerve to talk to Leo, Haylah leaves anonymous jokes in his locker. Leo figures out she’s the secret comedian and asks her to help him write a set for a youth comedy contest in London. Haylah agrees even though her two besties warn her that he’s using her for her talent. The author seems well versed in comedy writing and the sexism women face in that profession. Haylah’s relationships with her mother and 4-year-old brother, Noah, are well developed (she has a sweet and somewhat maternal connection with Noah). Unfortunately, the story suffers from weaknesses in pacing, and Haylah’s overdone self-deprecating humor undermines the central message of size acceptance, which is mentioned a great deal but not fully explored. Without body-positive role models, the resolution is boiled down to a simple makeover and excessive jokes at her own expense. Most characters are cued as White; Kas is a Polish immigrant, and Leo is Black.

This coming-of-age comedy is frothy, if uneven, fun. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-147-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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