A gripping and fiercely moving tale with a rough magic all its own.

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THE BANDIT KINGS OF NOWHERE PARK

Two restless teens discover a magical but dangerous paradise for delinquents in this YA fantasy novel.

Holliday Ringo O’Raff and the story’s initially unnamed narrator (later nicknamed “Bogart”) are both 14 and have been best friends for several years, having grown up in harsh circumstances in North Phoenix: “our insides were knives. We hungered for something intangible.” That something appears late one summer night when the friends happen upon a portal to another reality: Nowhere Park, a sort of Never-Never Land for punk kids with booze, drugs, skateboarding, and treehouses. After a bloody initiation, the boys discover that they have a gift for theft, and they become part of a gang, or “suit” in Nowhere Park, called the Bandits; other suits include the Brains, Bashers, and Creeps. Supernatural terrors are another facet of this new world, and Holliday and Bogart must face them when they’re targeted by the park’s new king—an ordeal that changes them forever. Samuelle, whose first novel was the magical-realist The Jovian Spark (2015), offers a compelling coming-of-age story like no other. The narrator’s voice is literary, even luminous, but also authentically hardscrabble; Holliday, for example, is described as having “a solid layer of tightly-wrapped sinew over bones made of used car parts and bad intentions.” The story embraces the boys’ outsider perspective as an honest stance in a corrupt world while unblinkingly revealing the park’s hardships, treacheries, and terrors—a world where the boys find purpose but also loss. Early on, Bogart sees his future as “full of scared nights and wild parties and near-deaths and blood oaths and broken windows and bad promises and maybe an early grave.” By the novel’s end, he glimpses other possibilities for himself, which would have been impossible if he hadn’t been shaped by his experience in Nowhere Park.

A gripping and fiercely moving tale with a rough magic all its own.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-6537-8668-6

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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