A heartfelt, charming coming-of-age story with a strong message.

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THE BOY WHO LIVED IN THE CEILING

In Thurlbourn’s YA novel, a homeless boy and a lonely girl become unlikely companions when she discovers that he’s been secretly living in her attic.

When teenage Freddie first enters the Johnson family’s home, it’s only because they’ve left their door ajar after going on vacation, and he means to close it after coming inside for a moment to warm up. However, desperation makes him stay longer. Abandoned by his parents and without other support, Freddie realizes that having a place to shower, sleep, and wash his clothes could give him the leg up he needs to get out of poverty. Things go awry, though, when the Johnsons return home unexpectedly, and Freddie hastily hides himself in their attic. He reluctantly decides to continue to live there and to eventually slip away after he’s saved up enough money. In the process, he becomes aware of the Johnson family’s many troubles, including the fact that teenage daughter Violet’s transfer to a new school has made her a target of bullying. Later, Freddie reveals himself when he saves Violet from an attempted assault by one of her classmates. Against all odds, she agrees to keep his secret, and the two form an unlikely bond. But as they grow closer, it becomes clear that there are secrets in Freddie’s past that could end their relationship before it truly begins. Thurlbourn does an exceptional job of taking an unnerving premise and spinning it into a lovely story about compassion and self-acceptance. Throughout, the author explores Freddie’s and Violet’s inner lives, giving their struggles shape and nuance, and portrays Freddie’s situation with grace and sensitivity. Despite the presence of a few genre clichés (such as a shallow friend-turned-bully), the narrative never feels trite or contrived. It also thoughtfully touches on everyday realities of unhoused people in a realistic way: “He’d written about his nights wandering town because he had nowhere to sleep and moving was better than staying still”; “It was the most he’d spoken in so long that he felt a little breathless.” It’s a sincere story with likable protagonists that balances romance, suspense, sorrow, and humor.

A heartfelt, charming coming-of-age story with a strong message.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-07-913500-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes.

HERE'S TO US

Former boyfriends’ “big Broadway love story” gets a revival in this sequel to What If It’s Us (2018).

Two years after their flash romance, Ben Alejo and Arthur Seuss (both now in college) couldn’t have drifted further apart. But destiny intervenes when Arthur lands his “ultimate top-tier pie-in-the-sky dream job” interning at a queer off-Broadway theater for the summer. Their long-anticipated reunion comes with a small catch: Both boys are basically taken. Ben met Mario in his college creative writing class, and, while they aren’t boyfriends, the connection—and attraction—is definitely there. Arthur’s officially dating Mikey, whose sweetness and steadiness saved him from remaining a “Ben-addled mess.” Cue the confusion—and inevitable broken hearts—as Ben and Arthur contend with their pasts and presents while trying to figure out their futures. Who will end up with whom? Albertalli’s and Silvera’s voices blend seamlessly, balancing the complexities of the boys’ situations with heartfelt (and heartwarming) nostalgia. As in the previous book, the narrative alternates between Ben’s and Arthur’s perspectives with off-the-charts wit and chemistry. Lovable side characters have grown and matured, while new characters expand the world to create an even stronger sense of community. Loose ends are tied up believably with an epilogue. Arthur is Jewish; Ben and Mario are Puerto Rican, and Mikey is White.

Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307163-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary,...

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THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE

The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. 

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16031-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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