SHADOWS ON THE WALL

On a trip to York, England, with his parents, Dan is seized with terror at certain spots along the river that surrounds the town. He is also concerned about his parents' mysterious behavior, but this is explained to him when he discovers that Huntington's disease (better known as Woody Guthrie's disease) runs in his father's family. As it usually doesn't strike till middle age or later, there is no knowing whether his father—and, if his father, Dan himself—might get it. The other terror becomes associated with ghosts of Roman soldiers, which Joe, a scholarly cab driver Dan takes up with, tells him about and finally admits to having seen. (Fleetingly, Dan himself has a similar experience.) Joe also takes Dan to visit some gypsy friends, and while camping out with them Joe briefly becomes a Roman soldier, hauling off the resisting Dan for some unknown, urgent, purpose. The gypsy camp itself is a cauldron of hints and visions. Just how Joe and Dan relate to the ancient ghosts, and how that relates to Dan's future, will no doubt be revealed in the next two volumes of this proposed trilogy. Here Dan leaves York with an ancient coin obtained from a gypsy boy, and with too many plot ends dangling to make this a satisfying entity. On the other hand, there is too little substance and texture to make it a promising beginning.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1980

ISBN: 0689849613

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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