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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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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Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes.

HERE'S TO US

Former boyfriends’ “big Broadway love story” gets a revival in this sequel to What If It’s Us (2018).

Two years after their flash romance, Ben Alejo and Arthur Seuss (both now in college) couldn’t have drifted further apart. But destiny intervenes when Arthur lands his “ultimate top-tier pie-in-the-sky dream job” interning at a queer off-Broadway theater for the summer. Their long-anticipated reunion comes with a small catch: Both boys are basically taken. Ben met Mario in his college creative writing class, and, while they aren’t boyfriends, the connection—and attraction—is definitely there. Arthur’s officially dating Mikey, whose sweetness and steadiness saved him from remaining a “Ben-addled mess.” Cue the confusion—and inevitable broken hearts—as Ben and Arthur contend with their pasts and presents while trying to figure out their futures. Who will end up with whom? Albertalli’s and Silvera’s voices blend seamlessly, balancing the complexities of the boys’ situations with heartfelt (and heartwarming) nostalgia. As in the previous book, the narrative alternates between Ben’s and Arthur’s perspectives with off-the-charts wit and chemistry. Lovable side characters have grown and matured, while new characters expand the world to create an even stronger sense of community. Loose ends are tied up believably with an epilogue. Arthur is Jewish; Ben and Mario are Puerto Rican, and Mikey is White.

Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307163-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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