In three voices and six "acts," Thomas' (When Light Left Us, 2018, etc.) latest plumbs the prejudices behind a murder that divided two families and their Kentucky town.
What's in a name? Plenty. Gay, feminist Kalyn-Rose Spence's surname is synonymous with poverty and being targeted for harassment; the residents of Samsboro (aka "Shitsboro") never forgave her father for murdering a local golden boy decades earlier. But is he guilty? Wealthy, "gay and confused" Gus Peake, who has cerebral palsy, two moms, and a "glorious menagerie of issues" including aphasia, feels doomed to be "the disabled kid" or "the kid whose dad got murdered." When their pasts threaten their budding friendship, Shakespeare-inflected, uber-analytical classmate Phil tries to "keep Capulets and Montagues from clashing" as he struggles to develop a conscience despite his anti-social personality disorder. In alternating perspectives, the trio endeavor to forge their own identities as they seek clues that may reveal Gus' father's real killer. The mystery resolves in a last-minute rush, but the book's real stars are its poignantly explored issues: love, social class, sexuality, homophobia, and the cycles of poverty and abuse. Kalyn's conflicted, loving relationship with her dad is particularly well-examined. However, the teens' heavy-handed exposition and discussions of fictional tropes and their subversion risk making their characters feel as "manufactured" and "intentionally offbeat" as the teen-targeting goth store Gus browses in, marring their refreshingly intersectional diversity. Most characters default to white.
Thought-provoking. (Mystery. 14-18)
Fiercely feminist and gorgeously inclusive, Wild and Crooked effortlessly compels the reader to explore what it means to discover the beautiful truth of who you are, and how to fight for the truth of those you love.” Shannon M. Parker, acclaimed author of THE GIRL WHO FELL and THE RATTLED BONES
“Morris finalist Thomas' poetic, figurative language beautifully defines each narrator. . . Thomas' forthright, sensitive treatment of homosexuality, class, race, and prejudice combine with fully developed characters to create a world peopled by marvelously real protagonists who have the courage to do the right thing.” Booklist, starred review
“It's refreshing to read teens having thoughtful conversations without losing their particular voices. . . . YA authors looking to incorporate meaningful and moving LGBTQ stories into their novels: Take notes.” Entertainment Weekly
“The book's real stars are its poignantly explored issues: love, social class, sexuality, homophobia, and the cycles of poverty and abuse.” Kirkus Reviews
“Both an alluring criminal mystery and a savvy contemplation of how identity is informed by a million histories, both small and large. . . . Readers are in for a wild ride.” BCCB
“This book stands out for its sensitive and complex depiction of disability, queerness, and classism. . . The story of friendship between queer protagonists is refreshing.” School Library Journal
“A compelling, character-driven, and imaginative novel. . . What makes it stand out is Thomas's talent of bringing intimacy, thoughtfulness, and a sense of wonder to her writing. For fans of Patrick Ness and Lauren Oliver, this is a must buy.” School Library Journal, starred review, on WHEN LIGHT LEFT US
“Metaphor and figurative language make the prose here beautiful to read. . . . The poignant, strange, and poetic novel is a nuanced exploration of human nature.” Booklist, starred review, on WHEN LIGHT LEFT US
“Readers will be captivated by the mystery and meaning in this eerie exploration of loss and love, hurting and healing, family and friends, and of letting go and reconnection.” School Library Connection on WHEN LIGHT LEFT US
“Unforgettable and distinct voices . . . A fantastic novel that will be especially resonant for readers who struggle with being or feeling outside of 'normal.'” Booklist, starred review, on NOWHERE NEAR YOU
“This brilliant follow-up to a clever and unexpected novel does exactly what it should in keeping the same epistolary format but taking these two unforgettable characters way out of their comfort zones and toward lives that are lived rather than waited out, and the result is powerful stuff indeed.” BCCB, starred review, on NOWHERE NEAR YOU
“The pacing is impeccable, as letters move from sunniness (Oliver) and bemused distance (Moritz) to both writers exploring their darkest fears, experiences, and worries for their futures.” BCCB, starred review, on BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME
“A witty, unusual take on friendship and parlaying weakness into power.” Kirkus Reviews on BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME