A surprisingly awkward novel from Pinkney (Bill Pickett, 1996, etc.) about the comings and goings in an African-American family; it captures the pace of life in a small town in upstate New York at the cost of losing readers along the way. As she has for the last six summers, Nell, 12, enjoys staying with her great aunt, Ursa, and 14-year-old son Foley, especially this year, when Foley’s friend Slade Montgomery has blossomed into a handsome, smooth-talking charmer. The idyll goes sour when Slade produces a Raven .25 handgun, persuades Nell to hide it in her old dollhouse, and is shortly thereafter found dead. Just before the funeral, Foley takes the gun and is seen hopping a train, leaving town just as his father, Slade’s father, Nell’s father Wes, and Wes’s father had done. Nell narrates, and Foley obviously suffers a profound shock, but Ursa’s losses and internal conflicts occupy the story’s emotional center. Talky, slow, and off the mark, this tale requires readers to get past the plot contrivances and logical gaps—Ursa opens the dollhouse but doesn’t find the gun because the dog has removed it, and is unaware that Slade is the third teenager in the county shot in the past year—and to penetrate Ursa’s wooden, long-winded utterances for the genuine emotions beneath. Cumulatively, the adults have far more presence than the younger generation, several important events are reported rather than seen, and Nell is largely an observer. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-15-201461-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1998

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Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...


From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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