A sharp, shockingly believable look at the inner-city life of a student.

PROMISES TO KEEP

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #19

Langan (Survivor, 2013, etc.), the editor of the YA Bluford High series and author of several in the series, offers a cleareyed look at the challenges faced by an inner-city high school student and his family.

The walls are closing in on 15-year-old Tyray Hobbs. Tough and big for his age, he’s an academic failure who’s been bullying other kids for years. Everyone is scared of him, even the few guys who hang out with him. That all changes in an instant when Darrell Mercer, Tyray’s longtime victim, turns the tables and publicly overpowers him. His humiliation complete and no longer feared, Tyray is now openly taunted and ostracized by all his fellow classmates. With violent crime and drug dealing commonplace in Tyray’s world, he responds to defeat by procuring a gun from someone in his neighborhood and going after Darrell in a dark alley. Darrell escapes the tense situation and helps stop any further violence, including Tyray’s suicide attempt. But when word of the gun and the abortive shootout reaches Tyray’s father, he reacts with fury. Nonetheless, he helps his younger son hide the weapon; it’s too late for the father to help Warren, his older son, who’s already in prison for a gun-related crime. In a stinging assertion, Tyray’s father tells him he’s no good and he’ll end up in prison like his brother. But Tyray isn’t yet ready to change. Further along in his journey, he’s guided by a compassionate teacher; his rueful brother, Warren; and Lark, a genuinely caring girl. Finally, by helping someone else out of a dangerous spot, he gains understanding and hope for redemption. Although the story follows a somewhat predictable YA trajectory, it doesn’t condescend to its audience or minimize the stakes. Action and characters ring true, and the language is conversational rather than unfailingly correct, though the author doesn’t attempt to be overly hip with the latest street slang. The tense, realistic story shows how quickly situations among young people can turn violent—even deadly—despite the best efforts of school officials and parents.

A sharp, shockingly believable look at the inner-city life of a student.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1591943037

Page Count: 151

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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