With a feeling that’s more experimental than wholehearted, this collection is one most kids will pass on.

THE WHIRLPOOL

STORIES

Picture-book author Croza (From There to Here, 2014, etc.) stretches out in a collection of short stories for older readers.

In the opening selection, young Charity is witness to the decline of her parents’ marriage as her mother struggles to assert her independence and free them both from her father’s tyranny. In another, Jasmine, a young teenage mom, has been abandoned by her own mother and endures the scrutiny of her peers as she adjusts to life at home with a new baby and her loving grandfather. In “A Beautiful Smile,” which echoes Croza’s picture-book stories, a transplant from the rural north begins her first day of school in Toronto. Her story is littered with boldface words, which readers may find more distracting than illuminating. After a host of rather depressing stories, the final tale, “Book of Dreams,” holds a bit of a spark, as aspiring artist Mike leaves his single mom and her beer-drinking boyfriend at home in front of the TV to go to his job at the local restaurant, where he’s found a sense of family and belonging. Though it appears the author is attempting to highlight teen stories that are not so glamorous, her long-form prose style is lackluster and at times distancing. She experiments with a talking-doll protagonist in one story and a cemetery-dwelling squirrel in another, two tales that feel distinctly disconnected from the rest of the collection.

With a feeling that’s more experimental than wholehearted, this collection is one most kids will pass on. (Short stories. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-032-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise.

WHERE SHE FELL

A teenager battles social anxiety disorder and giant bugs in a subterranean world.

When two bad friends to whom she’s been clinging trick her into venturing into the ominously named Drowners Swamp, Eliza falls into a sinkhole that leads into a seemingly endless cave system. Being an avid fan of caves and geology, Eliza is as enthralled as she is terrified—a mix of emotions that remains unaltered as she encounters a small community of likewise trapped people surviving on a diet of outsized spiders and cave insects. Weeks later she is captured (briefly, thanks to a conveniently timed spider attack) by bioluminescent humanoids. All the while, despite having been in therapy for years, she continually denigrates herself for panic attacks and freezing up around others. Her emotional reactions take up so much of the narrative, in fact, that for all its lurid, occasionally gruesome turns, it’s hard to tell whether character or action drives the story more. In the event, Eliza is surprised to find reserves of inner strength—and a chance at personal transformation—through her ordeal. The first-person narration is punctuated with excerpts and sketches from Eliza’s journal. Except for one character with brown skin, the nonglowing cast defaults to white. Warring themes and elements give this outing a distinct feel of multiple stories yoked together by violence.

Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise. (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23007-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A compelling novel that stands both on its own merit and as an addition to the wealth of Titanic literature.

MAIDEN VOYAGE

A TITANIC STORY

The tragic tale of the Titanic serves as backdrop for a series of smaller familial tragedies.

Three girls board the luxurious ship with no idea that their fates are soon to be irrevocably entwined. Lucy’s hope for this trip is for her parents to show affection for each other, though her father’s dark personality makes this unlikely. Abby, Lucy’s maid, hopes her secrets go undetected long enough for her to start a new life in America. And Isabella hopes to discover why her parents woke her in the night and made her board the Titanic—alone. An entertaining series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and revelations play out on various decks as the well-known climax approaches, this knowledge increasing the tension even further. In her debut novel, Jane liberally sprinkles historic references amid the action, including Marconi’s wireless and the women’s suffrage movement, to fold an authentic educational experience into the story. Jane shines at atmospheric descriptions of the opulence of the ship and the people themselves while also managing to bring her powers of keen observation to the third-class passengers, many of whom were immigrant families full of hope. The characters are white and of European background and straddle several economic classes.

A compelling novel that stands both on its own merit and as an addition to the wealth of Titanic literature. (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-22665-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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