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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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Summery fun and games with feeling.

THE SUMMER OF BROKEN RULES

A summer trip helps break 18-year-old Meredith Fox out of a haze of mourning.

Her cousin’s wedding means a return to Martha’s Vineyard, a well-loved destination but one filled with bittersweet memories. It’s been a year and a half since the sudden loss of Meredith’s sister, Claire, and the grief remains strong. Meredith, though, resolves to take this time to celebrate family and bridge the rifts resulting from ghosting friends. She didn’t plan on a meet-cute/embarrassing encounter with the groom’s stepbrother, Wit. Nor did she expect a wedding-week game of Assassin, a water-gun–fueled family tradition. What starts off as a pact of sharing strategic information with Wit grows into something more as the flirting and feelings develop. Only one person can win, though, and any alliance has an expiration date. To win and honor Claire, who was a master of the game, Meredith must keep her eye on the prize. Taking place over the course of a week, the narrative is tight with well-paced reveals that disrupt predictability and keep the plot moving. Early details are picked back up, and many elements come satisfyingly full circle. The short time frame also heightens the tension of this summer romance: What will happen when they leave the bubble of the Vineyard? The mix of budding romance, competitive hijinks, a close-knit circle, as well as dealing with loss make for a satisfying read. The main cast is White.

Summery fun and games with feeling. (family tree) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-029-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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