THE WORDS WE KEEP

Following the discovery of her older sister, Alice, self-harming on the bathroom floor, Lily grapples with her own increasingly perilous mental health.

Burdened with an ultrarigid academic schedule and a perfectionist’s mindset, Lily Larkin, a 16-year-old implied White girl, daily fends off pervasive anxiety and intrusive thoughts. For Lily, all her extra hard work means survival: “I can stop my family—and myself—from unraveling.” When she learns that Alice (diagnosed with bipolar disorder) will be returning home after two months of treatment, Lily braces herself for the reappearance of a sister she might not recognize. At school, she reluctantly garners the attention of Micah Mendez, a Mexican American boy hounded by depression and a troubled past. Micah, it seems, knows all about Lily thanks to his time at the same treatment center as Alice. Paired for a school art project, Lily and Micah grow closer, drawing on the power of words to express their truths to each other—and even their peers—in anonymous art installations. Lily, meanwhile, finds it hard to reestablish a relationship with Alice even as false starts send the sisters spiraling into potential calamity. A sprawling, engrossing read, Stewart’s latest succeeds in mapping out the toll of anxiety disorder with scrupulous, cleareyed detail. It’s mostly a hard, messy path for Lily, laden with moments of self-violence and acute tension. Above all, however, there’s an overpowering sense of hope underlined by an achingly sincere message: Speak up and get help if needed.

Indispensably candid. (author's note, resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984848-86-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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

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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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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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