February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

YA: Love Across Dimensions, Strong Female Protagonists, & Leigh Bardugo’s New “Language” | October 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Accardo, Jus. Omega. 320p. Entangled. Aug. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781633758254.

Gr 8 Up –In this sequel to Infinity, a boy and girl discover love across two dimensions, only to risk their lives when evil finds them. Billed as a standalone, the story is narrated by the two alternating voices of characters from the first book, Ash and Noah, as they attempt to stop a murderer traveling between dimensions. The killer is on a vengeful quest to kill every possible version of Kori—a character from Infinity—and so far he has succeeded. Noah tracks the villain to a new world where first he must fight his inevitable feelings for this dimension’s version of Ash. Meanwhile, Ash is torn by her grief for her friend Noah, who recently committed suicide, and by her feelings for the skip—or interdimensional version of Noah. It will be difficult for newcomers to jump right into this world without familiarity with the previous volume, as there’s not much explanation about characters and the worlds. The dialogue and romance between Ash and Noah seems forced and slightly tedious with Ash’s constant comparisons between the two Noahs. The contrasts between the worlds is intriguing (for example, in Ash’s world, upper-class adults do not speak to lower class children). Accardo’s fans familiar with the first book should enjoy the danger and suspense that these star-crossed lovers face. VERDICT Purchase where the previous title circulates well.–Sandi Jones, Wynne High School, Wynne, AR

redstarBardugo, Leigh. The Language of Thorns. 288p. Imprint. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250122520.

Gr 9 Up –This follow-up to the popular “Grisha” trilogy and its companion “Six of Crows” duology is a collection of atmospheric short stories and an excellent introduction to the Grishaverse for new readers and a satisfying expansion of the world for seasoned fans. The six entries (including three previously published by Tor.com) are inspired by the cultures found in the “Grishaverse” as well as traditional fairy-tales, folk tales, and myths. Every work is accompanied by Sarah Kipin’s border illustrations, which grow around the pages as the tales unfold, culminating in a double-page illustration at the end of each story. In “Ayama and the Thorn Wood,” a tale with nods to Cinderella and One Thousand and One Nights, Ayama ventures into the Thorn Wood where she must speak truth while placating a fearsome beast with fanciful stories. “The Soldier Prince” explores themes of identity and desire when a demon named Droessen creates a nutcracker soldier who comes to life—but is being alive the same as being real? The collection finishes with “When Water Sang Fire” about a sildroher mermaid named Ulla who dreams of being able to use her singing magic as she chooses, until her attempt to create a fire that will burn underwater ends in betrayal and heartbreak. Themes of feminism and empowerment color each story with heroes and heroines given the chance to choose their own fates and stir the pot, for better or worse. VERDICT Strong writing, compelling stories, and gorgeous illustrations make this collection a must-have for fans of the author and readers eager for new fairy-tale retellings to devour.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

Barrows, Annie. Nothing. 224p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062668233.

Gr 8 Up –Frankie and Charlotte, 15-year-old best friends, are average girls, in an average town, with average families. In a moment of reflection, contemplation, and conversation, the two decide to write a novel about how uneventful and unlike YA novels their lives are. They soon discover a world in which they are the center of every drama. This is a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek novel about two girls navigating life, family dynamics, romance, and their friendship. Readers will find the irony funny and either empathize or become annoyed (sometimes both) with Charlotte’s angst-ridden thought processes. VERDICT Recommended for fans of contemporary, realistic, and coming-of-age YA fiction.–Tamela Chambers, Chicago Public Schools, IL

Beauvais, Clémentine. Piglettes. 288p. Pushkin. Aug. 2017. pap. $13.95. ISBN 9781782691204.

Gr 7 Up –Before school lets out for summer break, the annual “Pig Pageant” winners are announced via social media. Being voted as one of the top three pigs means that you are one of the ugliest and fattest girls at Marie Darrieussecq high school in Bourg-en-Bresse, France. Mireille, placed bronze, dispels the notion that the pageant means anything. Astrid and Hakima, placed gold and silver, feel a bit differently. They are upset, and before they can drown themselves in tears, Mireille comes up with a crazy scheme; to go on a road trip to Paris. Astrid wants to see her favorite band Indochin, Hakima wants to tell off a general that her older brother reported to before he was maimed by a bomb and left a double amputee, and Mireille wants to meet her father for the first time. The girls conquer fears, tackle bullies, and make friends as they learn about each other and themselves. This humorous book takes on heavy subjects, such as bullying, romance, family dynamics, obesity, self-esteem, and so much more. VERDICT A strong purchase for most YA collections.–Katie Llera, Bound Brook High School, NJ

Boose, Greg. Achilles. 278p. (Deep Sky Saga: Bk. 1). Diversion. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781635760545.

Gr 8 Up –Sixteen-year-old Jonah, hoping to make a new start, is one of 177 teens and adults who have been chosen to help the struggling colony on the planet Thetis. The trip has taken 13 long months and Thetis is but one night and day away when chaos erupts, and the ship makes an emergency crash-landing on Achilles, a moon of Thetis. As he and other survivors assist the injured and bury the dead, Jonah learns the crash was deliberate, the ship sabotaged, and the crew murdered. Adults begin to disappear, and several bodies are found dead and mutilated. The 40 surviving kids devolve into two factions: one believes it is safer to await rescue, while the other (including Jonah) agrees that getting to where the colony’s telescopes on Thetis can see them is smarter. But as Jonah and his group head out across the alien moon on the dangerous trek, nothing goes right and it’s not long before they begin to lose companions. The protagonist despairs that they will never figure out who is behind the crash, or even survive. This sci-fi thriller is perfect for teens, with strong writing and intriguing characters whose disparate temperaments, capabilities, and goals drive the story. The clever ending will leave readers hoping for a sequel. VERDICT Buy this for sci-fi loving teens who enjoy spine-chilling suspense, non-stop action, and long odds of survival like in The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey or Forging Zero by Sara King.–Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

Burns, A.M. & K.T. Spence. New Hoofprints in the Snow. 180p. Harmony Ink. Sept. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781635337082.

Gr 9 Up –Maia’s family has had a rough few years. A sports accident paralyzed her brother, Ramon, and then her parents lost their jobs. Forced to move in with Abuela Sylvia, they must leave behind their rural home and Maia’s beloved horse. But Maia is comforted when the rescue farm owner’s daughter invites her to visit any time. Emma has been homeschooled since she faced bullying for being a lesbian. She develops a crush for the warmhearted Maia. As the girls’ friendship develops and Ramon begins physical therapy at the ranch, Maia must face the attraction to girls she has long avoided in the shadow of her traditional Mexican family. What starts as a sweet, simple romance quickly crumbles under the weight of too many plotlines, from Emma’s ex to a pregnant horse, leaving no room for meaningful development. Characters like Ramon, who is mostly a plot device, and Billy, who is the catalyst for Maia coming out, are paper thin. Emma and Maia’s relationship is likewise flimsy, going from sweet flirting to declarations of love in mere moments. Events rarely survive even slight scrutiny, like the fact that the family was visiting food banks but still maintaining a ranch and horse. VERDICT A possible purchase for large collections where romance is very popular or lesbian romance for younger teens is needed.–Amy Diegelman, formerly at Vineyard Haven Public Library, MA

Daniel, Tony. The Amber Arrow. 512p. (Wulf’s Saga: Bk. 2). Baen. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481482530.

Gr 7 Up –Ursel, a skilled archer with a mysterious origin and the de facto manager of her foster father’s land, has only one weakness: Wulf von Dunstig, her unrequited crush. Wulf is the leader of his people and heir to the dragon-call. Wulf is impossibly in love with Saeunn, who appears to be dying despite the fact that as an elf she should be immortal. He has made it his mission to find her a cure and ignore the “dragon-call.” The book switches between the two points of view, though it leans more on Wulf’s perspective as it goes on. A map at the front of the book provides context for the areas various groups travel through. This second installment in the “Wulf’s Saga” is a high-fantasy alternate history where continental America’s Native tribes, shape-shifters, Roman Vampires, and others live among a Vikinglike group that controls much of the area. The story picks up quickly and is a rapid-paced tale that immerses readers in the world, occasionally providing a large amount of sometimes unnecessary or tangential background information, such as details of centaur family relationships. Flawed secondary characters appear more realistic than main characters who never deviate from doing the right thing. While the overall plot makes sense and can be followed, it is clear that details have been left out and reading the first book is strongly suggested. VERDICT Captivating plotting and complicated world-building make this a purchase only for where The Dragon Hammer is popular.–Rebecca Greer, Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, FL

Farrell, Rebecca Gomez. Wings Unseen. 350p. Meerkat. Aug. 2017. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781946154002.

Gr 8 Up –In this high-fantasy novel, readers visit two very different kingdoms to meet three characters whose lives are entangled in politics, espionage, war, and magic. The story opens in Medua with the murder of a Lansera spy at the hands of the beautiful Vesperi, a Meduan princess who wields lethal magic. Vesperi longs to rid herself of the oppression of her male-dominated society. Meanwhile in Lansera, young Prince Janto anxiously awaits the day he will marry his beloved fiancée and is undergoing intense training to be a warrior. His intended, the beautiful Serra, mourns her brother who was the man Vesperi killed, but her wedding plans are interrupted when a member of a mysterious brotherhood arrives. The priest shares a summons with Serra from the goddess Madel requesting her presence. These events thrust the three characters together, and they must learn to use magic as a weapon in order to save them from a devastating threat to both countries. The first half of the book might fail to capture teens’ interest. Farrell’s world-building and the characters’ backstory are well-done, but the opening chapters are dialogue-heavy. The confusing, made-up words for common things and the lack of action make this novel difficult to enjoy. Nevertheless, Vesper’s characterization is darkly complex and intriguing, and the other protagonists are just as compelling. Readers will relate to the passions and longing of the three main characters and might find themselves pleasantly surprised by the magic later in the book. VERDICT Purchase where fantasy is popular.–Sandi Jones, Wynne High School, Wynne, AR

Feinstein, John. Backfield Boys. 368p. Farrar. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374305925.

Gr 7 Up –Though this is billed as a football mystery, it becomes obvious very early on that the book involves less of a mystery than a frustratingly difficult search. The narrative follows two friends, Tom—an African American quarterback—and Jason—a white, Jewish wide receiver—as they are recruited as freshman to play football for an exclusive Southern prep school. The boys, both native New Yorkers, jump at the chance, but are shocked when, upon arriving at the school, Jason is placed at quarterback, while Tom is forced to train as a receiver. The “mystery” of the book consists of the boys’ quest to find a smoking gun, to prove the existence of the unspoken but very real racism they find at the school. Feinstein’s story gets at some thorny problems—how to concretely prove something as hard to pin down as subtle forms of bigotry, as well as Jason’s struggles in a homogenous Christian environment—but is ultimately unable to say much new about them. Jason, denied his normal position as receiver, still manages to find success on the field, while Tom is forced to watch from the sidelines. The narrative treats their plight as equal, thereby preventing a nuanced discussion of racism from ever emerging. VERDICT A strong football hook will draw in most sports fans, and, if the mystery itself falls short, the boys’ driving quest for the truth will keep readers engaged.–Bobbi Parry, East Baton Rouge Parish School System, LA

George, McKelle. Speak Easy, Speak Love. 432p. bibliog. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062560926.

Gr 9 Up –This debut novel explores what Shakespeare’s characters in Much Ado About Nothing would do and act like in the roaring 1920s. In this retelling, Beatrice has come to live with her Uncle Leo on his estate on Long Island. Beatrice quickly learns that the old mansion, called Hey Nonny Nonny, and its occupants are much more than meets the eye: her uncle and cousin are running a struggling speakeasy out of the basement. Beatrice butts heads with one occupant, Benedick, a trust-fund kid trying to become a writer. While the two can’t seem to reconcile, their friends trick them into thinking they like each other. George adeptly captures Shakespeare’s witty characters and transplants them to the 1920s. All of the play’s characters make an appearance and George cleverly incorporates all the romantic misunderstandings among the well-rounded characters. Skillfully, the author has named each chapter title with a quote from the source material. The time period is accurately portrayed, and George is able to explore jazz, prohibition, women’s rights, and even organized crime. An author’s note and bibliography, expands on the historical details. Overall, this retelling is witty and clever, but may not stand alone if readers are unfamiliar with the original play. VERDICT A great purchase for school libraries where Much Ado About Nothing is being taught or for public libraries looking to purchase more historical fiction.–Aileen Barton, Sherman Public Library, TX

Gibson, Tamika. Dreams Beyond the Shore. 190p. Blouse & Skirt. Sept. 2017. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9789768267061.

Gr 8 Up –Originally published in Jamaica, this debut novel introduces readers to 17-year-old Chelsea Marchand. She has lead a charmed life due to her powerful father, Peter Marchand, who is now running for Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Chelsea has always been the conscientious daughter who invariably put her family’s needs before her own. Her father has had her whole life planned for her, and she is coming to realize that his dreams no longer mirror her own. He hopes that Chelsea will become a lawyer who then follows in his political footsteps, but she has aspirations of becoming a writer and attending Georgetown University in the United States. Enter Kyron Grant, the handsome boy in her SAT class who may not have had the same charmed life, but is also overshadowed by a powerful father. Together they find they have more in common than not. Their attraction is palpable and their romance is a slow, but clean burn—until a gruesome murder, betrayal, and political intrigue tear them apart. Told in alternating points of view, this tale is crafted with universal themes of acceptance, family values, and doing what’s right in the face of adversity. The descriptions of Trinidad and Tobago are lush and vivid. VERDICT A solid choice for schools and libraries looking to add an accessible novel with a strong and intelligent female protagonist and a patient and respectful male protagonist set in a beautiful tropical island.–Sandra Farag, BookOps, New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library

Kapp, Jessica. Body Parts. 294p. Diversion. Aug. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781635761665.

Gr 8 Up –Sixteen-year-old Tabitha Rhodes is in elite physical condition. She is training so that she has the best chance of being fostered out of the Center for Excellence by a loving family. Tabitha is about to be released to her new family when she is taken to the clinic for her final medical tests. The teen wakes up strapped to a hospital bed, unable to speak or move. Two renegades take her from the hospital and reveal that she is not being adopted, but being sliced open so her organs can be given to people in the community who are sick. In a small island off the coast of California owned by PharmPerfect, pills for anything and everything are made. Everyone is addicted to pills, and their livers and other organs are failing due to these addictions. PharmPerfect takes children abandoned by junkie parents and raises them to be harvested for organs for the pill-addicted rich people. When Gavin Stiles rescues Tabitha, he and his motley crew discover that she is even more valuable than her parts, and PharmPerfect will stop at nothing to get her back. This well-written sci-fi will have young adult readers on the edge of their seats. Hints of romance are tastefully woven in, and the world these characters live in is craftily unveiled as the story moves through many twists and turns. The complex characters are fully developed. VERDICT A suspenseful read that will entice fans of science fiction.–Nancy Jo Lambert, Reedy High School, Frisco, TX

Leav, Lang. Sad Girls. 368p. Andrews McMeel. May 2017. pap. $18.99. ISBN 9781449487768.

Gr 9 Up –Audrey’s ordinary life—sitting for exams and spending time her boyfriend—is imploded by a damaging offhand lie to her two best mates that she had seen something wildly inappropriate between a girl named Ana and Ana’s father. When Audrey’s bombshell is overheard, passed on, and snowballs, Ana winds up dead. Panic attacks and guilt sabotage Audrey’s expected path, but incredibly good fortune lands her a plum job and a lovely free apartment with a best friend. She resists the strong attraction she feels for Ana’s boyfriend Rad, with whom she connects at the funeral. She succeeds at the small but well-regarded publication that hired her. As she sits to interview a hot new novella author a few months later, she suddenly faces Rad himself. When friendly outings turn romantic, their passion breaks up Audrey’s comfortable relationship. New young love is complicated by what the two reveal and don’t reveal about Ana. This novel from an Australian poet launched on social media sometimes crosses over from angst-ridden realistic fiction to melodrama. Audrey’s life features plummeting falls and serendipitous boosts that call to mind a farfetched but popular soap opera. VERDICT Writing that fails to sufficiently differentiate between the tragic and the mundane as well as hard-to-swallow plot points may limit this novel’s appeal among more discerning readers.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

Luciano, Lisa. The Chosen Ones. 344p. Micro. Sept. 2017. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781944068370.

Gr 10 Up –A fast-paced, cinematic look into the world of professional figure skating. Disgraced sports reporter Brody Yates is offered the chance to turn his career and life around, disguising himself as a trainer in order to uncover layers of corruption in the skating community. Luciano’s work is critical of the often racially homogenous culture of figure skating. The author also covers in detail the difficulty of coming out as gay when you work in the public eye. While teen readers may relate to several elements of this book, such as the presence of overbearing parents and the pressure to succeed, the “young adult” distinction may puzzle librarians. This novel does not have a teenage protagonist, and while the syntax is relatively simple, it can be difficult to keep track of the plot which includes more than a dozen significant characters and interwoven conflicts. Luciano writes with an omniscient point of view, revealing the thoughts of even minor characters. With so many characters, heavy use of dialogue, and sometimes abrupt scene changes, this novel reads somewhat like a screenplay. Athletes may enjoy this book which takes the typical sports narrative and adds a twist of journalistic mystery. VERDICT Librarians should be aware that although this is marketed as young adult, it features several adult characters and themes, and will be a challenge for young or reluctant teen readers.–Emily Butler, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Easthampton, MA

McGoran, Jon. Spliced. 368p. Holiday House. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780823438556.

Gr 9 Up –This thriller imagines a bizarre yet gripping near-future that will win over most fans of sci-fi dystopia. Jimi, 16, has grown up next to her best friend, Del, who lost his mother and been left in the care of his abusive father. Jimi enters the shadowy netherworld of “chimeras,” people who choose to have their genes spliced with those of animals. Desperate to help Del, Jimi joins forces with some colorful chimeras and begins to understand their subversive decisions, but activists are lining up against her new friends, making it very dangerous to be around them. The body modification experiments create a wild menagerie of sympathetic hybrid characters—half-dogs, half-birds, and even people who get expensive leopard fashion tattoo splices—as the plot moves Jimi through a series of perilous adventures. Sometimes the story begs for more fleshing out, and the whole premise seems pretty far-fetched, but the action grabs hold as Jimi moves further out into the dangerous world beyond the cities and into the off-the-grid areas called “zurbs.” Though this is no Divergent, the plot is gripping and teens will probably enjoy taking this completely strange ride. VERDICT A good choice for YA dystopian and sci-fi collections.–Sara Scribner, Marshall Fundamental School, Pasadena, CA

Patel, Sonia. Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story. 224p. Cinco Puntos. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781941026861; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781941026878.

Gr 9 Up –In alternating chapters, the author of Rani Patel in Full Effect introduces readers to two children growing up in Hawai’i. Jaya’s parents are wealthy and shower their child with gifts—and expectations—including marriage to someone in their Gujarati Indian community. Rasa lives with her hippie, indifferent mother in a tin roof shack by the beach and is often left to care for her three younger siblings—sometimes for weeks with little or no money for food. Both characters and their lives are carefully drawn in the fully realized early chapters: Jaya, who identifies as male, is bullied at school and finds his escape in music, presents an interior look, while Rasa, who discovers release in free diving, is seen in her day-to-to-days attempts to feed and shield her siblings from their mother’s life as a prostitute. The inevitable meeting—and relationship—of the two young people is set in motion early and compellingly told. The narrative is so engaging that readers are likely to overlook a few shallow characterizations (Jaya’s parents), and a hastily mended plot hole or two. For example, teens may wonder what happened to Rasa’s “busy” foster parents, who encourage the teen to spend time with a friend of theirs who prostitutes her. And then there’s the story’s dramatic resolution. Still, readers will care deeply about these sympathetic protagonists and their stories. VERDICT The setting, romance, and captivating characters will draw in teens looking for a story they haven’t read before. A good choice for most YA shelves.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Martino Carmela A. Playing by Heart. 358p. Vinspire. Sept. 2017. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781546799450.

Gr 6 Up –Teenager Emilia Salvini was born into the wealthy merchant class in the 18th-century Duchy of Milan. Her father has the single-minded goal of belonging to the upper stratosphere of the Italian nobility with his secret weapons—his uncommonly talented elder daughters Emilia and Maria. Emilia, a gifted musician and composer, knows that her future depends on how hard she works at her craft; how else can a second-born daughter avoid being sent to a convent in these times? She must prove to her music instructor that despite her sex, she has the drive and talent to impress not only Italian society, but also fellow musical soul mate, Antonio Bellini. The plot follows Emilia’s exploits over several years as she maneuvers herself around the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated society. Martino created the Salvini sisters after having done extensive historical research on the Agnesi sisters and their extraordinary lives—highlighting the unique position their accomplishments placed them in during a time where women were not permitted to orchestrate their lives and were rarely so well educated. While the seemingly unending day-to-day descriptions give the impression of burying the climax and somewhat lessening the impact of the story, Martino’s dedication to historical accuracy is commendable and serves to educate as well as entertain. VERDICT Fans of European historical fiction will relish this peek into a more obscure period. An additional purchase.–Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA

Strohm, Stephanie Kate. The Date To Save. 288p. Scholastic/Point. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338149067.

Gr 7 Up –In this companion novel to It’s Not Me, It’s You, homecoming at San Anselmo Prep has everyone busy. All major school events have been scheduled for the same day. Aspiring writer, Angelica Hutcherson, has finally been given a chance to write a piece for the school newspaper, The Prepster. She is assigned to write about the Academic Battle and is determined to impress. What starts off as a small assignment snowballs into a series of interviews summarizing the day’s events. Sprinkled with comedy, drama, and a little mystery, this novel is entertaining from start to finish. Each character is given their own unique voice and background. At times feeling larger than life, the characters are grounded with relatable experiences and problems. Strohm has laid out the novel as the transcript of oral interviews with intermittent interjections, switching among multiple characters per chapter. Although unique in styling, this may be difficult for some readers to follow at the start. However, if they stick with it, teens will be rewarded with a wild tale. VERDICT A wonderful addition to young adult shelves that will have readers laughing out loud.–Melissa Poole, Clemson Univ. Lib., Anderson, SC

Webbe Maxwell, Florenz. Girlcott. 190p. Blouse & Skirt. Sept. 2017. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9789768267085.

Gr 7-10 –Desma, 16, dreams of becoming an actuary. As an exemplary student, obedient daughter, and all-around driven person, Desma tries to make sense of a looming boycott of a popular theater. After disparaging comments from her white employer, Desma begins to question the thin veneer of racial civility, blatant colorism, and flagrant sexism that exists all around her. As Desma’s awareness of injustices in her community mounts, so does her confidence and her ability to use her own voice to speak out. Within Desma’s home and neighborhood she learns of the precarious nature of race and politics. Her neighbor values the beauty of lighter skin over the rich darkness that she possesses. Desma watches her mother seethe with anger over racism but remain powerless to keep it at bay. Readers will be able to taste the flavor and culture of Bermuda juxtaposed with the thick tensions of prejudice and the fight for freedom. Through heartfelt prose and extensive research, Maxwell gives readers invaluable insight into an important and unsung narrative of the civil rights movement. The Progressive League Boycott of 1959 is not often discussed and the author writes with tenderness and bravery. Readers who loved The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano and The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon will enjoy this courageous tale. VERDICT An incredible story that should be read and distributed widely, and a valuable addition to any library collection.–Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Land O’Lakes, FL

Wilgus, Nick. Raise It Up. 350p. Dreamspinner. Aug. 2017. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781635334555.

Gr 10 Up –Cyrus Hood believes he killed his mother because her heart failed when she saw him singing and dressed up as a woman. He confesses this, plus his interest in boys, to a priest who encourages more guilt and shame. Without its matriarch, Cyrus’s mess of a family gets messier. Dad is a drunk, physically and sexually abusive, and a uber-religious conspiracy theorist. Big brother wants no responsibility, little brother has brain damage (thanks to Dad), and little sister just tags along. The protagonist is bullied at school but is well liked by his teachers and more than well liked by classmate Oliver. Cyrus and Oliver begin a physical relationship, about which Cyrus is plagued with guilt. Eventually, Cyrus is told by a teacher that being gay is OK and is told by the authorities that sexual abuse is not. Dad goes to prison for his violent crimes, including the murder of Cyrus’ other older brother which Cyrus witnessed as a small child. Cyrus, Charlie, and little sister, Kay, are adopted by none other than Oliver’s parents. The casual intertwining of abuse, incest, and sexual orientation here is troubling. The narrative only touches upon each issue at the surface level and characterization is thin. VERDICT A disturbing combination of too many issues without much follow-through. Not recommended.–Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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