THE ISLAND

In a milder variation on the theme of self-discovery through experience sounded in Hatchet (Newbery Honor, 1988), Wil spends a few solitary days on an island near his home, tuning into nature and his own creativity. Wil has just moved from Madison, Wisconsin, to a decrepit country house near his father's new highway job. Feeling dislocated but not rebellious, Wil suddenly decides to camp out on the island that he has just discovered; he sends new friend Susan to tell his parents he won't be coming home for a while. He is engrossed in trying to re-create his experiences (what his grandmother was like, a turtle capturing and eating a sunfish) in words and in paint; he observes wildlife and takes up meditation. Meanwhile, his parents don't understand and are upset; they even send a psychologist to check him out, but not before the media have descended on this odd story. Wil is a fully developed character and—as Susan's mother suggests—gifted ("one of the thirsty people who need to know"); it's easy to imagine Paulsen as such an unusual boy. But there are some implausibilities in his story, including why a boy of 15 deciding to camp out a short distance from his home, in June, should cause such a fuss; and how such apparently limited and unimaginative parents could have produced such a son. And although there are some tautly written scenes (a fight with the local bully; Wil trying to imitate the loon's cry in order to understand the meaning of the loon), much of the book moves slowly. Fuller development of the parents would have made a stronger book; still, Wil's realization that they too are worthy of understanding makes a poignant conclusion to a novel that will appeal most to the unusual reader.

Pub Date: April 1, 1988

ISBN: 0439786622

Page Count: -

Publisher: Orchard/Watts

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1988

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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