Thoughtful and brimming with justified teen angst, Kearney’s fast-paced tale offers illuminating insights into the perils...

WHEN YOU NEVER SAID GOODBYE

AN ADOPTEE'S SEARCH FOR HER BIRTH MOTHER: A NOVEL IN POEMS AND JOURNAL ENTRIES

A college-age adoptee searches for her birth mother.

In the final novel-in-verse installment of her identity-probing trilogy (The Girl in the Mirror, 2012, etc.), Kearney’s scrappy protagonist, Liz McLane, heads to the Big Apple in search of answers. Ostensibly there to study poetry at NYU, Liz is also in search of her birth mother, who gave her up for adoption there when she was an infant. Liz is more conscious than many a white girl of being “white as paper. Church-white / with monk-brown curls.” One of the strengths of Kearney’s first-person tale is the normalized diversity of friends and loved ones Liz draws around her on her quest, dating a boy with “half- / Mexican skin” and hanging with friends of differing racial and ethnic backgrounds, who may be gay, or—like Liz—also dealing with the loss of a parent. Another highlight is how Liz’s study of writing affords Kearney the opportunity to experiment with poetic form and include useful tips for budding poets like Liz, such as “When the subject / feels dangerous, form is your friend.” Legal and historical hurdles Liz encounters throughout her search only spur her to dig even deeper into her past, propelling the narrative to a surprising conclusion.

Thoughtful and brimming with justified teen angst, Kearney’s fast-paced tale offers illuminating insights into the perils and rewards of self-discovery. (Verse fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-89255-479-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Persea Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Sweet, honest, and filled with personality.

SHE GETS THE GIRL

Many begin college with hopes of personal reinvention, and Alex Blackwood and Molly Parker are no exception.

Apparently opposite in every way, both girls nevertheless arrive for their freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh with the same goal in mind: to fundamentally change the way others perceive them and get their dream girls. Easy-peasy. Molly, whose mom is a transracial adoptee from Korea and whose father is assumed White, was socially anxious in high school. She worries that her close friendship with her mother holds her back. Willowy, blond Alex, who is implied White, has never once found herself at a loss in a social situation, and yet her fairy-tale story of adolescent beauty and wit is tempered by having a single mom whose struggles with alcohol abuse meant shouldering responsibilities far beyond her years. Utilizing tried and true tropes, married couple Lippincott and Derrick cut right to the heart of the matter when it comes to the mysteries of romance. Queerness itself is never the motivator of the drama, and gratifyingly, both girls find in one another the means to explore and unpack complexities of life unrelated to their sexualities. Nothing is made simplistic—not Alex’s relationship to self-expression and conventional beauty standards, nor Molly’s experiences of culture and community in a world that has expectations of her based on her racial identity.

Sweet, honest, and filled with personality. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9379-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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