33 SNOWFISH

The bleak scenery of winter forms the backdrop to this tale of three runaways, bonded together to grasp feebly for emotional warmth. The reader meets Custis, Curl, and Boobie as they speed down the back roads of Illinois in a stolen car, with a stolen baby. Alternating narratives move back and forth through time, obliquely telling the characters’ individual stories even as their current drama unfolds. Custis is homeless, a fugitive from a child-porn producer; Curl is a drug-addicted prostitute; Boobie is a virtual cipher—his contributions to the narrative consist of increasingly violent and nihilistic sketches—who, the reader learns, has just killed his well-to-do parents and made off with his baby brother. They have no destination other than to get away from where they’ve been; they have a vague plan of selling the baby and using the money to set themselves up comfortably. Their “plan” is doomed from the start: the three, plus the baby, end up in an abandoned van in the middle of the woods, where first Curl dies and then Boobie vanishes into the snow. It is at this moment that Custis and the baby are taken in by Seldom, an ancient and eccentric black man who lives in a cabin and who begins to show Custis that maybe there is another way to live. With his customary ear for the language of the marginalized teen, Rapp (Little Chicago, 2002, etc.) allows his characters to present themselves with total un-self-consciousness, frankly and powerfully laying out the squalor of their existence without any seeming sense that life can be anything else but squalid. Seldom may himself seem rather like deus ex machina from a plotting perspective, but he serves to save both Custis and the narrative from utter annihilation. The snug warmth of Seldom’s home and the little family he and Custis and the baby have formed contrasts powerfully with the frigid internal winter that Custis has survived, allowing both Custis and the reader to hope for redemption. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7636-1874-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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