Slider Review

I don’t typically review books, mostly because I’m lousy at it. But recently a very fine novel crossed my threshold and I thought I’d tell you about it. It will be on store shelves in September, so consider kicking off your fall reading with…

Slider by Pete Hautman

Slider cover

Here’s a secret I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone before: Pete Hautman (whom I’ve never met) is responsible for one of my books.

You see, I read and devoured and was forever transformed by his quite exceptional novel Godless, which is still, in my estimation, one of the best critiques of religion I’ve ever read.

In under 250 pages.

Godless coverI was utterly gobsmacked by that book, by Hautman’s audacity and intellect and wit. And by the fact that he was able to establish and transform characters and offer up a scathing rebuke to religious thought, all in a little over 200 pages.

Meanwhile, I had just written 600 pages about a kid screwing his teacher. Consider me properly chastened.

I wanted to do what Hautman had done and so I wrote Hero-Type, in which I tried to apply a Hautman-esque ethos to politics. (I failed miserably, but that’s not his fault.)

Anyway, I’m in awe of Pete Hautman, so I was thrilled to get my greedy little hands on an advance copy of Slider, his new middle-grade novel.

Slider is the story of David, an endlessly hungry tween who aspires to competitive eating greatness. He can slurp down an entire pizza in nothing flat, and now that he accidentally charged $2000 on his mom’s credit card, he really really needs to win the big state eating contest…or he’s dead meat.

Throw in adolescent confusion, two best friends who seem to be becoming closer than is comfortable, and an autistic younger brother who sucks all the oxygen (and attention) out of the room, and you have a recipe for something truly different and powerful. In Hautman’s hands, that recipe ends up perfectly balanced. He deftly combines humor, pathos, yearning, and introspection, never allowing any one of them to overpower the others. You’re rooting for David all along, living in his head, and never once do you feel manipulated by authorial fiat.

Most amazing of all, Hautman makes you care about the obsessive detail of a competitive eater, even if the thought of eating more than one hot dog at a sitting makes you want to retch.

Slider has brains and heart and an iron cast stomach…and it certainly has one hell of a funny bone. You can preorder your copy with the links below.

Publishers Weekly Stars Bang!

Publishers Weekly logoI’m so happy to report a third star for my upcoming novel, Bang!

Publishers Weekly weighs in, saying, in part:

…agonized and primal feelings…are essential to this gripping story…. It’s a raw exploration of persistent social stigmas, a beautiful study of forgiveness, and an unflinching portrait of a parent’s worst nightmare.

Read the entire review here.

(You can read an excerpt from Bang at


Kirkus + Bang = Star

Kirkus logo

I’m thrilled to announce that Bang has received its second starred review, this time from the folks at Kirkus! (The first star was from School Library Journal.)

Here’s a snippet:

Rich characterization anchors this explosive novel, from white Sebastian’s likable, brainy, but at-times acerbic intensity to Aneesa’s upbeat, intelligent kindness. Aneesa is Muslim—her dad is Turkish-American—and she and Sebastian discuss everything from Islamophobia to their families to how to turn his pizza-making hobby into a YouTube Channel…. Readers will root for him to find some sort of peace.

Heartbreaking and brutally compelling.

Read the entire review over at Kirkus.

(You can read an excerpt of Bang at!)

A Star for BANG!

I’m thrilled to announce that School Library Journal has given Bang a starred review in its February 17 issue, saying, in part:

Lyga (I Hunt Killers) tackles a number of relevant issues in this heartbreaking novel, including gun control, suicide, and religious and racial prejudice. The pain and anguish Sebastian feels every day are raw and chafing, and the chemistry between Sebastian and Aneesa is tender and realistic. VERDICT With a number of sensitive issues addressed, along with frequent graphic language, this book may be best for a mature audience, who will fully appreciate the unwavering and stark realism.

Thanks, SLJ!

(You can read an excerpt from Bang at!)

SLJ on The Secret Sea

The Secret Sea coverJust in time for launch day, School Library Journal offers up its take on The Secret Sea! (Once again, I’ve redacted a bit for spoiler purposes. Emphasis mine.)

Terrifying visions of subway stations flooded by ocean water. A somnambulistic journey to the World Trade Center. Things are definitely getting weirder by the day for Zak Killian, and that’s before he uncovers the secret of [SPOILER]. That reveal leads Zak and his best friends Khalid and Moira into an alternate universe where Zak can [SPOILER]. Lyga creates a compelling and impressively fleshed out alternate universe; sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian elements feature throughout, from mysterious wild magic to the glowing electroleum power source. A subplot involving the brutal repression of women by means of a legal system very similar to our own slavery adds depth to the comparison of the two worlds. Though upper–middle grade through young adult readers will appreciate these elements, the narrative’s success ultimately relies on its compelling adventures and character development. However, it is somewhat disappointing that readers have to wait roughly about 100 pages to cross into the alternate universe proper. VERDICT Though it might start a little slow some for some, this work ultimately delivers the sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian goods and will draw in middle schoolers with its impressive world-building. A strong choice for many young adult and upper–middle grade collections.