Still, as a steady, dependable guide through the perils of adolescence, Alice is unexcelled, and her legions of fans will be...

NOW I'LL TELL YOU EVERYTHING

From the Alice McKinley series , Vol. 28

The 28th and last novel in this essential series is addressed to fans who want to know what happens to Alice.

In almost 500 pages, Alice takes herself and her circle of childhood friends through college, marriages, child-rearing and beyond. As years fly by, traumatic events include an attempted date rape, a friend’s miscarriage and her teenage daughter being caught in a beery game of strip poker. These are buried beneath flurries of happy vacation memories, emotional high points and get-togethers with close friends at sad or (more often) joyful life occasions to laugh and reminisce. What emerges is a portrait of a settled, comfortable life centered on family and relationships, with, at best, only passing mentions of academic, intellectual or professional interests. Furthermore, Alice’s decades seem to pass in a timeless bubble—when, at age 60, she rereads a time-capsule letter to herself from seventh grade, for all the scene’s poignancy, the setting could still be 1993, when the letter’s original mention in Alice in April appeared. Alice’s aspiration to live with “passion, tenderness, and joy” is only fitfully reflected in this bland memoir, and readers with, for instance, social consciences or some curiosity about the universe may by dissatisfied by her circumscribed, agnostic viewpoint.

Still, as a steady, dependable guide through the perils of adolescence, Alice is unexcelled, and her legions of fans will be pleased to see her so well rewarded. (Fiction. 12-16, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4590-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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