Readers devour Hopkins regardless, but this is strong and worthy.

RUMBLE

Almost six months after his younger brother’s suicide, a high school senior slogs through tangled resentment and guilt.

Matt’s world has never been rich with happiness, what with his cold parents who retreat “to their separate alcohol-soaked / corners.” Dad bitterly rues the one-night stand that created Matt and forced the marriage; their house “is a sponge, / absorbing regret until it can hold / no more and disillusionment drips // through the bloated pores.” Now Matt shoulders his own crushing regret. Luke was three years younger—Matt should have protected him from the homophobic and religious bullies; he should have told adults how depressed Luke was, even sneaking Mom’s Prozac, which can be dangerous for teens. He definitely shouldn’t have been distracted by his girlfriend on Luke’s last, desperate day. Now that very girlfriend seems to be “trading [Matt] in // for Jesus.” The sturdy, fast-reading free-verse poems—which sometimes shift into elegance—give a heavy sense of Matt’s anger and discomfort, as well as how he vacillates between decency and churlishness. Themes of combat-induced PTSD, Christian fundamentalist bigotry, forgiveness, and foreshadowed violence integrate deftly. The climax surprises in the best way. Brief but explicit acknowledgement of the It Gets Better campaign (and why it didn’t help Luke) grounds the contemporary setting.

Readers devour Hopkins regardless, but this is strong and worthy. (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8284-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s...

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THE POET X

Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.

Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance.

Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266280-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition.

THE POETRY OF SECRETS

In Trujillo, in the Spanish Kingdom of Castile in 1481, Isabel is a Crypto-Jew; she and her family maintain their Jewish faith in secret.

The Inquisition is gaining control, but 16-year-old Isabel, who has a passion for writing poetry, thinks that as New Christians her family is safe. The family converted to Christianity and were baptized in the hope of making their lives easier and more secure. However, like many other Jews in Spain at the time, they privately practice Judaism—attending church on Sundays but conducting Shabbat dinners every Friday night. They think their secret is safe, but the head Inquisitor, Fray Tomás Torquemada, is now targeting conversos for their private Judaizing. When Isabel is betrothed against her will to the powerful and ruthless alguacil, or sheriff, Don Sancho, Isabel’s parents believe that the upcoming marriage will save them from persecution. But when handsome aristocrat Diego warns Isabel that she is in grave danger from the Inquisition and especially from her husband-to-be, Isabel is determined to save her family, herself, and the man she loves—and live an openly Jewish life filled with poetry. This historical romance is a fast-paced, plot-driven tale with feminist main characters whom readers will root for from the very beginning.

A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. (author’s note, photos, research notes, poetry citations, further reading) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-63418-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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