Artful, cathartic, and most needed.

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AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT

A profound visual testimony to how much changed while we all had to stay inside and how much—painfully, mournfully—stayed the same.

Reynolds’ poetry and Griffin’s art perform a captivating dance on pages of mixed-media collage and emotive reflection on the pronounced threats facing a contemporary Black family. In “Breath One,” the opening of the verse narrative, the unnamed boy protagonist struggles with the onslaught of TV news coverage of the systemic violence and death experienced by Black people—coverage that is both overwhelming and insufficient. The television then forms the backdrop of the narrator’s concerns for his bedridden father, who is struggling with an acute respiratory illness while isolated in a bedroom. The art is sometimes spare and monochrome before shifting to a bright and striking palette as Griffin deploys aesthetics that enliven the rich flow and rhythm of Reynolds’ words. The two skillfully go back and forth like rap duos of old, each with a distinct voice that enriches the other. The result is an effective critique of the ways we’ve failed as a society to care for one another. By “Breath Three,” however, a complicated optimism shines through for a family that perseveres through closeness and connection despite what is broadcast from their TV. While grounded in 2020, many of the issues touched on explicitly are very much not over and not even new, making this remarkable work both timely and timeless.

Artful, cathartic, and most needed. (conversation between creators) (Illustrated poetry. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3946-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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A different kind of fairy tale, for older and wiser readers.

BRAVELY

Disney adaptations are familiar, but this title marks a new gambit: a novel sequel that accepts the source movie, Brave, as canon.

Merida, now nearly 20, has negotiated a truce with her mother (they never talk about betrothals or marriage) and traveled the kingdom learning new things. But little has changed otherwise: The triplets are still a force of chaos, Merida prefers archery to embroidery, the kingdom is at peace, and magic is at rest. That is, until Feradach, the god who brings ruin in order to make room for growth, threatens to destroy everything Merida loves unless she can change her family enough to end their stagnation. This is still clearly a fairy-tale world, but Stiefvater’s understanding of medieval history (briefly detailed in the author’s note) grounds it, as does the very believable nature of Merida’s conflict: Saving what she loves means transforming it beyond what she knows. The episodic structure as Merida takes on three journeys, each with different family members, moves more slowly than the movie, but the depth of characterization—as shown in Feradach and Queen Elinor in particular—is nuanced and noteworthy. Readers who spent their childhoods watching Merida engage with magic will readily fall under her spell again as she negotiates the hardest challenge of all: growing up. All characters are assumed White.

A different kind of fairy tale, for older and wiser readers. (Historical fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-368-07134-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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