Vivid and brutal—but not without a sliver of hope.

IRONHEAD, OR, ONCE A YOUNG LADY

In 1808, a teen from Ghent escapes into a new life.

Eighteen-year-old Constance is miserable. The eldest child of a clog maker–turned–unsuccessful-inventor, fiery Stance is desperate to escape an impoverished and restrictive home. But when Stance’s father forces a marriage to Lieven, his 45-year-old potential business partner, life gets even worse. After 15 weeks of nightly rape by Lieven, who hopes to father a son, Stance dresses in men’s clothes, borrows the identity of baker’s son Binus, a conscripted acquaintance, and becomes a soldier in Napoleon’s Fourteenth. Despite the grueling conditions, the freedom is intoxicating. But when younger brother Pier tracks Stance down in Paris on Lieven’s behalf, Stance must face a duel. After surviving being shot in the head—and triumphantly adopting the nickname Ironhead, Stance continues to overcome the odds, ultimately finding liberation and independence beyond family or army. Ironhead also has a dalliance with a woman and ultimately becomes an amputee with significant PTSD. First-person chapters switch between sardonic Ironhead and naïve Pier, who struggles with his dysfunctional family and being unable to attend school, and the siblings’ narratives become increasingly compelling as their stories intertwine. Vivid language in this novel translated from the Dutch doesn’t shy away from the grime of everyday life or the graphic violence of war, and the descriptions of wartime medical procedures are not for the faint of heart.

Vivid and brutal—but not without a sliver of hope. (glossary) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64614-048-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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  • National Book Award Winner

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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