A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams.

K-POP CONFIDENTIAL

Who doesn’t want to be a K-pop idol?

Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan—but secretly, because she fears it’s a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee’s fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry’s actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay.

A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63993-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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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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