ONE THING THAT'S TRUE

Adolescence and a shocking revelation temporarily pull two Calgary teenagers from their moorings in this subtle novel. Joel Jacob, 14, has been growing increasingly sullen and withdrawn at home, only in part because he (wrongly) suspects his father of having an affair. The only person who can really get through to him is his younger sister (and narrator), Roxanne, who is also feeling adrift; subject to gusts of emotion, she is unable to get Joel’s classmate, Michael, out of her thoughts, and is growing apart from friends and parents. Even her close relationship with Joel is severed when it comes out that he is adopted. Without warning, he disappears, and in the anxious period before he gets back in touch, she savagely breaks off with her best friend, Laura, for seeing Michael in her absence. Though Foggo directs only small nods toward issues of race (the Jacobs are black, Laura’s parents biracial) and harassment, her evocation in Roxanne of the profound confusion that comes from not always being able to control one’s acts and feelings will strike a chord in many readers. At crucial moments, her main characters make sound choices (several unmistakable losers are inserted into the cast for contrast); in the end, Joel comes back, Roxanne and Michael become an item, and Roxanne mends her relationship with Laura. A modest but worthy effort. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55074-411-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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