A solid sophomore novel celebrating love that begs for a soundtrack.

RISE TO THE SUN

Queer Black girls fall in love at a summer music festival.

When dating the top basketball recruit in Indiana turns disastrous, ruining her socially, emotionally, and in her mother’s eyes, perpetually in love 16-year-old Olivia Brooks begs her best friend, Imani Garrett, to take a summer road trip to the Farmland Arts and Music Festival in Georgia. Imani agrees on one condition: Olivia cannot hook up with anyone on the trip. Meanwhile, Toni Jackson is heading to Farmland for the first time without her musician-turned-roadie dad, who was killed 8 months ago. Joined by her best friend, Peter Menon (whose surname cues him as Indian), Toni is trying to figure her life out—college or something else? She believes that if she performs in the festival’s Golden Apple amateur competition, the truth will become clear. The four meet in Georgia, and when all the solo slots in the competition are full, Toni and Olivia agree to enter as a duo and help each other with their individual quests—Toni’s to perform on stage, Olivia’s to be distracted from the upcoming judicial hearing over violating behavior by her ex-boyfriend and to win the prize of a much-needed car. Although Imani and Peter feel more like devices than well-developed characters with substantial relationships to the protagonists, the exploration of Olivia’s tendency to adapt to others’ expectations of her is wonderfully nuanced, and her relationship with Toni is delightfully swoon-y.

A solid sophomore novel celebrating love that begs for a soundtrack. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-66223-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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