Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation.

SHOOT THE STORM

From the West 44 YA Verse series

Tragedy turns a top basketball prospect toward a life of hard, hurt-filled choices—but it’s never too late to become more than our pain.

When her loving ex-con father is assassinated, Aaliyah Davis’ already tumultuous life in Buffalo, New York, is turned upside down. A star hooper, like her father before her, and an unrepentant tomboy, to the chagrin of her absentee mother, 16-year-old Aaliyah experiences the sort of trauma no one should have to but that is unfortunately all too common. Her story is presented here in raw, poignant verse with first-person adolescent lyricism. With basketball no longer an effective distraction from her growing anger, a budding relationship with a schoolmate who’s suffered similarly from gun violence quickly turns into an opportunity for revenge. Until a stint in juvenile detention that pointedly parallels her father’s incarceration, learning to trust the right people proves to be disastrously difficult for Aaliyah and many of the young people in this complicated story of loss, betrayal, and widespread neglect—but it’s a hard-earned lesson that ultimately sets her free. Accessible for reluctant readers, the attractive design and fluid writing style make this a broadly appealing work. Main characters are Black.

Trauma abounds in this earnest verse novel that ultimately—perhaps boldly—offers minimal consolation. (Verse novel. 12-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9785-9559-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A fresh, beautifully written look at high school sports that sparkles with strong female athletes.

WE ARE THE WILDCATS

“The girls who played varsity last season each still nurse a secret wound, the thinnest of scabs capping a mountain of scar tissue.”

The intense pressure that Coach exerts on these former field hockey champions is far less than what they place on themselves. They are tormented by last season’s championship loss: Ali and Kearson choked; Mel, the leading scorer, didn’t score at all; and Phoebe limped off the field. This year, the West Essex Wildcats—including new members Grace and Luci—are willing to give up romance, free time, and family for the privilege of being a Wildcat. At sleepovers before weekend games the girls enjoy dinner, movies, and bonding, but on this night, the first before the new season, devastating secrets are revealed. Anyone who raised a high school championship trophy—or dreams of doing so—will find Vivian’s (Stay Sweet, 2018, etc.) book powerfully familiar and sink deeply into this juicy read. The writing is both poetic and blunt, just like the badass Wildcats. The pace may frustrate—it takes a while to grasp that the book is not about the season but a series of perspectives and shocking reveals over the course of one long night. The end, while satisfying, lacks sophistication. Most main characters are white; Ali is Korean American, and Luci is Argentinian and white American.

A fresh, beautifully written look at high school sports that sparkles with strong female athletes. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3990-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A memorable / and innovative story / of one wrenching year.

DEATH COMING UP THE HILL

Seventeen-year-old Ashe Douglas records the events of 1968 in a novel in haiku.

Ashe was born on May 17, 1951, and is a senior in high school during the year he decides to describe in haiku, liking the tidiness of the three-line, 17-syllable form. The year is 1968, when more soldiers died in the Vietnam War than in any other year. Ashe decides not only to write haiku, but to dedicate a syllable to each soldier killed—976 haiku equals 16,592 syllables equals the number of soldiers killed in 1968. An entire story “contained by a syllable count.” Not only is that asking a lot of its diminutive form, but so much happened in 1968: the war, race riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, let alone Ashe’s family life, which resembles a war zone. Haiku stanzas just can’t contain it all, being ill equipped for the depth or context necessary for a rich historical novel. But what transcends contrivance and gimmickry is Ashe’s voice, and haiku are well-suited to carry that. With newspaper headlines, death tolls, and overwhelming world, national and domestic events in the background, one boy’s clear and earnest voice records his life: “I’ll / write what needs to be / remembered and leave it to / you to fill in the gaps.”

A memorable / and innovative story / of one wrenching year. (historical note, author’s note) (Historical fiction/poetry. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-30215-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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