An intelligent, compassionate examination of a family enduring a nightmare.

A YEAR TO THE DAY

A young woman in Southern California struggles with the agony of her sister’s death from a car accident.

Sixteen-year-old Leo’s favorite person was her older sister, Nina, whose outspoken, funny persona endeared her to many. In a series of chronologically reversed vignettes over the course of the year since Nina’s death, ending with one that takes place just hours before the accident that takes her life, Benway presents a nuanced, realistic portrait of the losses experienced by those closest to Nina—Leo; their mother, father, and stepmother; and Nina’s boyfriend, East. The novel’s structure is an interesting and mostly successful narrative technique: While the movement of time can be a little difficult to track, the dates that preface each chapter, labeled in terms of where they fall in relation to the accident, help to keep the timeline from becoming too confusing so readers can focus on the moving exploration of grief in all its unpredictable messiness. Authentic, often sarcastically funny dialogue and texts bring a lightness and grim humor to interactions Leo has with East and others. Her divorced parents and stepmother are poignantly developed secondary characters, and the intricate dynamics of Leo’s relationships with each of them underscore the ripple effect that occurs in families following a tragic loss. All the main characters seem to be White and middle class.

An intelligent, compassionate examination of a family enduring a nightmare. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-285443-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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