WHERE I BELONG

A contemporary international thriller is woven together from alternating first-person perspectives. Freya, daughter of a British fashion designer who wants to create a line based on Somali beauty and exotic mystery, Khadija, a recent Somali teenage immigrant to London, and Abdi, of Somali heritage but born in the Netherlands and now living in England, share the story. The action moves from Somalia to the Muslim neighborhoods of London and then from English fashion studios and model agencies back to Somalia for an over-the-top fashion show. There, Khadija finds her younger brother, who is being held for ransom by people who have found out her secret: She just may become the next international supermodel. (Think Iman.) The betrayals that take place here seem to belong in another, more serious book. Here they are passed by too quickly. Although the device of the multiple narrators is largely successful, the third-person pieces about Mahmoud, the kidnapped boy, are printed in bold type in Freya’s chapters and do not make structural sense. The plot is driven by e-mail messages and texts, and most of the characters are made of equally flimsy fabric. There is something appealing about the adolescent characters (most of the adults are creeps), but this mishmash of a plot may have little meaning for most readers, especially if their knowledge of Somalia is limited. (Thriller. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2332-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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BAMBOO PEOPLE

Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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TRASH

In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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