Luminous, genre-bending, and out of this world.

SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING

Sia’s mother was deported three years ago by the town sheriff; she disappeared after trying to make her way back across the Sonoran Desert to her family.

Grieving Sia is plagued daily by the sheriff’s hateful son, but the Mexican American teen is bolstered by her Haitian American, questioning best friend, Rose; her loving park ranger father, who has a Ph.D. in biology; and the spirit of her late grandmother, who continues to communicate with and guide her. She falls for a mysterious, poetry-loving White boy, and, together, they spot a spacecraft bearing Sia’s mother. What follows is an electrifying, high-stakes adventure filled with shady government agencies and conspiracy theories come to life. Vasquez Gilliland adeptly balances first love, Mexican American cosmology and Catholicism, X-Files–level intrigue, and undocumented immigration. She doesn’t shy away from frank explorations of trauma; interrogation of Whiteness; and sex-positive, swoon-inducing makeout sessions that center a young woman’s perspective. The poetic prose elevates the story into a magical triumph. Sia is a vulnerable, sympathetic protagonist who, despite a past traumatic sexual experience, the deportation of her mother, and the constant barrage of egregious micro- and macroaggressions, finds hope in her relationships, culture, and connection to her ancestors. Spirituality is woven into everything Sia does and will resonate with many readers. The whip-smart humor lends the novel a breeziness that keeps the narrative lighthearted in between the truly hair-raising moments.

Luminous, genre-bending, and out of this world. (Science fiction/contemporary. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4863-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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