"A gripping, tragic debut novel that will fascinate and trouble sophisticated teen readers." —Kirkus Reviews
We all knew about Cullen Hickson.
Siblings Bri and Ray O'Dell are lost. Anxious. Restless. Ray—bullied at his Catholic school for being small and timid—wants to be someone people respect or, even better, someone people fear. Meanwhile, Bri knows that something is off about her friendship with the shiny, happy, sophisticated blond girls on her field hockey team. They don't really understand Bri, and if Bri is being totally honest, she doesn't really understand them either.
When storied delinquent Cullen Hickson enters the orbit of the O'Dell siblings, though, everything changes. Bri and Ray find an alluring, addictive outlet in Cullen, who opens their eyes to a world they didn't know existed. For Ray, that means experiencing the singular thrill of crime—from breaking and entering to grand theft auto—while Bri quickly dives into an all-consuming romance with the enigmatic upperclassman.
As Bri and Ray become more and more entwined with Cullen's antics, and their once-thrilling experiences grow increasingly dangerous, a series of life-changing events threatens to lead the teens down a dark path—one that could forever alter the course of their lives.
About the Author
JJ Strong received a creative writing degree from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in English from Georgetown University. His writing has appeared in Fifth Wednesday, the Santa Monica Review, and LA Weekly. He taught for many years in the undergraduate writing program at USC, before moving to the Washington, D.C. area with his wife and son.
"Strong's debut novel is one that will resonate with those searching for meaning or a higher power in life....the alternating narratives of these three [characters] will give readers much to ponder about romance, friendship, life and death, and all the ineffable spaces in between." —Booklist
"Gritty and dramatic." —School Library Journal
“The twists and turns in this novel left me sweating with suspense. The story of a brother and sister and the older boy who comes into their lives very astutely shows how its teen characters catalyze each other’s lives, creating unpredictable chemical reactions in which each propels the others into a dangerous direction not one of them could have imagined. Unsentimental and gripping, this is a memorable debut.” —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black “An unflinching exploration of teenagers hurtling toward a point of no return. A compelling, impressive debut that doesn’t shy away from the allure of danger.” —Latifah Salom, author of The Cake House
"Us Kids Know is at once a page-turning adventure and a poignant exploration of the human heart. Strong renders these complex teenagers with deep empathy and insight as they quest for truth and meaning in an uncertain world. I fell in love with this funny, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming book.” —Lindsey Lee Johnson, author of The Most Dangerous Place on Earth