Like Sep’s decisions, this story feels rushed.


Sixteen-year-old Sep (short for Giuseppina) wakes up on the first day of school to find that her lips are completely white.

With some lipstick on, she hopes for a miracle to restore her natural lip color. Her doctor confirms the beginnings of the skin condition vitiligo. Horrified by her blotchy body, Sep is unable to tell her friends, even as she draws the flirtatious attention of Joshua, captain of the football team. Napoli, known for her retellings of legends that explore female power and budding sexuality (Hush, 2007; Bound, 2004; etc.), develops those themes here in a contemporary setting. Sep is intelligent, old-fashioned and cautious, but she begins to change. She finds herself soliciting advice from the wiser, slightly older girl at the makeup counter. She talks to her mother in a way she never has before, telling her “I’m a fucking train wreck.” Within a few weeks, Sep goes from sweet 16 and never-been-kissed to straddling Joshua’s face in order to find out what sexual pleasure is. Rather than re-telling a specific, identifiable folktale, Napoli looks at the sexual transformation wrought by adolescence using Sep’s skin as a focus, awkwardly braiding in folkloric tropes—the makeup-counter girl as witch stand-in, for instance. Though the end refutes happily-ever-after in a satisfying way, the sketchy plot, heavy on dialogue, is unconvincing.

Like Sep’s decisions, this story feels rushed. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4778-1721-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Skyscape

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.


From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Several yards short of a touchdown.


A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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