Falls flat despite good intentions.

LOVE, DANCE & EGG ROLLS

Jamie Santiago is devastated that, due to a lack of funding, this year’s Folk Festival will be the last one ever held.

At 16, Filipino American Jamie has been dancing in the local Folk Festival, which is sponsored by various Asian ethnic associations, since he was 6, and it is the one source of happiness for him. Sadly, shame over his heritage causes him to hide his love of Filipino dance from Walter and Dennis, his football-obsessed White best friends. In fact, he struggles to find common ground with Walter, particularly around the subjects of race and Jamie’s goth girl crush, Bethany. Jamie is the only non-White student at his school in Milwaukie, a small Oregon city near Portland, even though there must be a substantial enough community to create the local Filipino American association that his parents have been involved with for years. Unfortunately, this book lacks a clear plot; it reads more like a vehicle to describe Filipino culture, dishes, and mannerisms, all of which are presented in a way that explicitly explains them for a non-Filipino readership rather than having them emerge organically from the story and characterization. Tagalog words and expressions such as tsinelas and ay nako are woven throughout the text, making the choice to use the term egg rolls for lumpia, one of the most beloved and well-known Filipino foods, baffling. Though the book takes place sometime after the 2016 presidential election, the pop-culture references and slang feel dated.

Falls flat despite good intentions. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-947845-34-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ooligan Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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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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