A superbly entertaining read that weaves issues of mental health and gun control with adolescent angst.

ALL THAT I CAN FIX

Ronney kept believing his dad would snap out of it and shape up—until his hope turned into anger.

In Makersville, Indiana, a local eccentric with a collection of neglected exotic zoo animals sets all the animals free and then kills himself. But 15-year-old Ronney is focused on keeping things together for his precocious, sensitive younger sister, prescription drug–addicted mother, and suicidally depressed father. He’s also in love with a perfectionistic girl who only wants to be friends, and he has a best friend whose desire to go viral with photos of the escaped animals veers into death-wish territory (both characters are light-skinned). Ronney is deeply flawed, with a rage that simmers close to the surface, but readers will sympathize with his burning resentment toward his father’s mental illness and its impact on the family. He doesn’t much care about flunking algebra, not with half the town arming themselves with guns and a motley crew of animal rights and gun (pro and con) activists descending in protest. Ronney is refreshingly and defiantly multiracial (his family’s exact heritage is not specified, but he is at one point mistaken for Latino), and readers will fall hard for him in this novel that balances the heartbreak of a parent’s emotional abandonment and a child’s fear of violence with plenty of absurd, laugh-out-loud moments.

A superbly entertaining read that weaves issues of mental health and gun control with adolescent angst. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0888-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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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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