MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES

Two teenagers make a suicide pact in this poignant, first-person debut.

Sixteen-year-old Aysel’s life “can be neatly divided into two sections: before my father made the nightly news and after.” Since her mentally ill father murdered a local boy with Olympic hopes, Aysel feels as though her only escape from the public shame is suicide. She also worries that her father’s madness is genetic and exists inside her as well. Through a website that matches suicide partners, Aysel meets Roman, a kind, attractive, athletic boy who feels responsible for the drowning death of his little sister. Even though Aysel harbors a passion for science and Roman a love of basketball, they are determined not to let each other “flake out.” Together they begin enacting a fake relationship designed to lull Roman’s overprotective mother into allowing Roman more freedom so they can carry out their fatal plan. But when Aysel begins falling in love with Roman for real, she knows she can no longer follow through on their pact. Can she convince Roman that his life is worth living before it’s too late? Any teen who’s ever felt like an outsider will be able to relate to Aysel’s and Roman’s fully realized characters. The countdown at the beginning of each chapter to the couple’s death date (the same day Roman’s sister died) will help propel readers forward to a hopeful if not entirely unexpected ending.

Earnest and heartfelt. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-232467-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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