THINGS NOT SEEN

Clements (The Jacket, above, etc.) looks beyond grade school for the first time with a multifaceted rumination on selfhood and various forms of invisibility. Fifteen-year-old Bobby wakes up invisible one morning. His equally flummoxed parents, quickly grasping the personal and social dangers should the news get out, urge him to hole up at home. But boredom, worry, and the mutinous thought that he should have some say in the matter soon lead him into a string of adventurous outings, both wrapped up Invisible Man–style, and stark naked. Clements cranks up the stress with an ensuing traffic accident that puts both parents into the hospital, and, as weeks pass, the increasingly persistent attentions of the governmental child-welfare machine. He also provides a needed confidante for Bobby in Alicia, a teenager blinded by a head injury two years before and no stranger herself to that sense of being unseen. Both feeling angry, scared, and vulnerable, their relationship gets off to a wonderfully tumultuous start, but builds on a foundation of caring and loyalty into something solid enough to survive Bobby’s final return to visibility. As always, Clements’s genius for developing credible plot lines (even from oddball premises) makes suspension of disbelief no problem. His characters, each one fundamentally decent—there is never a chance that Bobby will go the way of the transparent voyeur in Cormier’s Fade (1988), for instance—are easy to like. A readable, thought-provoking tour de force, alive with stimulating ideas, hard choices, and young people discovering bright possibilities ahead. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23626-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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BURIED ONIONS

Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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