Messily human and sincerely insightful.

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ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DIVE INTO THE WATERS OF THE WORLD

From the Aristotle and Dante series

As the final year of high school approaches, Ari and Dante explore their love for each other—and their love for others—in Sáenz’s long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

For Ari, his world’s beginning to open up. After years of silence, his father begins to share more about his experiences in Vietnam and the ensuing trauma, rebuilding their relationship. Once a nuisance in Ari’s life, Gina and Susie now seem like the allies he needs to flourish, leading to even more potential friendships in surprising ways. And then there’s Dante, the boy who “found me in a swimming pool one day and changed my life.” Embarking on a relationship, Ari and Dante navigate the joys (a camping trip that takes their journey to a new level) and pains (uncertainties about life after high school) of young love. Throughout, the harsh truths of life circle the two young men: the specter of Ari’s imprisoned brother, who makes a memorable appearance; questions of what constitutes one’s sexual and cultural identities (“We’ll never be Mexican enough. We’ll never be American enough”); and the AIDS pandemic, whose tremors fill the airwaves and affect their community. Sáenz packs a whole lot into these pages, but it’s a testament to the characters that he’s created that it never feels like too much. There’s an unhurried quality to the author’s wistful, tender prose that feels utterly intimate.

Messily human and sincerely insightful. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9619-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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This brutal, emotionally charged novel will grip readers and leave them brokenhearted

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THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

A minute-by-minute account of mass murder at a high school by a former student.

Four students from a range of different backgrounds at Alabama's Opportunity High, all of whom have a history with Tyler, the gunman, take turns telling this harrowing story in the first person. They include his sister, Autumn, and her clandestine girlfriend, Sylv, who have only each other for solace as the home lives of both are in upheaval. Tomás, Sylv's brother, recounts his and his friend Fareed's desperate efforts to help from outside the school's auditorium, where their fellow students and teachers are locked in with Tyler as he picks them off one by one. Finally, Claire, Tyler's ex-girlfriend, realistically agonizes over what to do when she and a few others outside running track realize that the gunshots they hear are coming from inside the school. Grounded in the present, the story makes effective use of flashbacks that lay bare the pain and deception that have led up to the day's horror. The language can occasionally feel a bit melodramatic, with lines like "we're fighting for hope and a thousand tomorrows," but this is a minor side note to this compelling story of terror, betrayal, and heroism.

This brutal, emotionally charged novel will grip readers and leave them brokenhearted . (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2246-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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