UNFINISHED PORTRAIT OF JESSICA

In a season with two outstanding novels (both by women) hinging on failed mothers (Journey, p. 1013; Monkey Island, p. 857), another fine novel to right the balance: Jessica's charismatic dad is a childish, unproductive womanizer; her mother, whom she first presents as a nonentity, has blossomed by book's end into nurturer, role model, and friend. When her adored father leaves, Jessica—with the cruel single-mindedness of a 13-year-old—blames her mother, whom she describes as a colorless drudge. Dad, a photographer, had the exciting life; their elegant Chicago apartment is his family's home, the priceless portrait of grandmother Jessica, by Great- uncle Lucius, is his. In a beautifully crafted first chapter, Peck reveals Jessica's delusions about both parents; then he sends her to Acapulco to visit Dad and Lucius and to find out for herself how self-centered Dad is—he has even sold the portrait to philistines, as Jessica angrily reveals to Lucius, causing him to turn Dad out of his comfortable free quarters. Vision cleared, Jessica goes home to recognize her mother's worth (she's not only a mature person, perhaps a little too good to be true, but a well-known author). A dramatic final scene, years later, confirms the power of their bond. The exotic Mexican setting, the appealing young people Jessica finds there, Peck's perceptive reading of teenage concerns, and his well-deserved reputation are sure to draw readers. They won't be disappointed: this is one of his best. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0440218861

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1991

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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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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