Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation.

SHOOT THE STORM

From the West 44 YA Verse series

Tragedy turns a top basketball prospect toward a life of hard, hurt-filled choices—but it’s never too late to become more than our pain.

When her loving ex-con father is assassinated, Aaliyah Davis’ already tumultuous life in Buffalo, New York, is turned upside down. A star hooper, like her father before her, and an unrepentant tomboy, to the chagrin of her absentee mother, 16-year-old Aaliyah experiences the sort of trauma no one should have to but that is unfortunately all too common. Her story is presented here in raw, poignant verse with first-person adolescent lyricism. With basketball no longer an effective distraction from her growing anger, a budding relationship with a schoolmate who’s suffered similarly from gun violence quickly turns into an opportunity for revenge. Until a stint in juvenile detention that pointedly parallels her father’s incarceration, learning to trust the right people proves to be disastrously difficult for Aaliyah and many of the young people in this complicated story of loss, betrayal, and widespread neglect—but it’s a hard-earned lesson that ultimately sets her free. Accessible for reluctant readers, the attractive design and fluid writing style make this a broadly appealing work. Main characters are Black.

Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation. (Verse novel. 12-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9785-9559-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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K-pop helps a cellist develop musically and emotionally in this novel filled with humor and theatrics.

XOXO

A driven young woman learns to balance expectations and priorities with heart and passion.

A vivid, comical scene of everyday life in Koreatown introduces narrator Jenny Jooyoung Go, a high school junior and classical cellist aiming for a top conservatory. While her single-minded focus yields technical perfection, competition judges deem Jenny lacking in soulful spark. Her Uncle Jay advises her to experience more of life and broaden her horizons. An opportunity soon beckons, and the plot unfolds like a minidrama amid the Los Angeles Korean Festival, launching Jenny and her new acquaintance, Jaewoo, on an accidental adventure that foreshadows romance. When her mom, a widowed immigration lawyer, needs to return to Seoul to care for her dying mother, Jenny negotiates to go along for her first visit to Korea. Attending Seoul Arts Academy, Jenny witnesses the institutional grooming of K-pop idols—including (surprise!) classmate Jaewoo, who, as it turns out, is popular band XOXO’s lead singer. She also shares in the student performers’ duty-bound lives: Behind the glamour, they are burdened with obligations to their communities that can require sacrifice of their personal happiness. Themes of responsibility, regret, and reconciliation weave through the intergenerational dynamics in Jenny’s family, adding dimension and depth. The author incorporates Korean honorifics to convey a conversational tone and signal dialogue occurring in both languages.

K-pop helps a cellist develop musically and emotionally in this novel filled with humor and theatrics. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302499-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre.

I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS

Survival camp? How can you not have bad feelings about that?

Sixteen-year-old nerd (or geek, but not dork) Henry Lambert has no desire to go to Strongwoods Survival Camp. His father thinks it might help Henry man up and free him of some of his odd phobias. Randy, Henry’s best friend since kindergarten, is excited at the prospect of going thanks to the camp’s promotional YouTube video, so Henry relents. When they arrive at the shabby camp in the middle of nowhere and meet the possibly insane counselor (and only staff member), Max, Henry’s bad feelings multiply. Max tries to train his five campers with a combination of carrot and stick, but the boys are not athletes, let alone survivalists. When a trio of gangsters drops in on the camp Games to try to collect the debt owed by the owner, the boys suddenly have to put their skills to the test. Too bad they don’t have any—at all. Strand’s summer-camp farce is peopled with sarcastic losers who’re chatty and wry. It’s often funny, and the gags turn in unexpected directions and would do Saturday Night Live skits proud. However, the story’s flow is hampered by an unnecessary and completely unfunny frame that takes place during the premier of the movie the boys make of their experience. The repeated intrusions bring the narrative to a screeching halt.

Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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