While the absence of certainty may frustrate some readers, it also speaks to the underlying takeaway: you can never be sure...

WATCHED

Naeem, a teenager living in an immigrant neighborhood in Queens, finds his grip on life slipping.

With his performance in school deteriorating, he feels unable to deal with the disappointment of his hardworking and hopeful Bangladeshi parents—and then there are the inquisitive eyes and mouths of their neighbors. Hoping to avoid them, Naeem keeps himself constantly on the move. But he is always aware that he is always being watched, by cops and by cameras placed all around. He’s taken small risks, but close calls have not been enough to deter him, until one day his past mistakes catch up with him and he has to make a choice between paying dearly or taking a deal the cops offer him: to become a watcher and help them spy on the people in his neighborhood. Having previously written about immigrant teens in Tell Us We’re Home (2010) and Ask Me No Questions (2006), Budhos again tackles identity and belonging or lack thereof, as well as Islamophobia and growing up under surveillance. It’s a slow story, appropriately filled with uncertainty. Action takes second place to a deeper message, and room is left for readers to speculate on the fates of certain characters.

While the absence of certainty may frustrate some readers, it also speaks to the underlying takeaway: you can never be sure what others’ intentions are, even if you have made it your job to study them. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53418-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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