Vail captures the complexity of middle school social challenges, insightfully addressing the issues of friendships and...

UNFRIENDED

Eighth-grader Truly’s foray into popularity spirals into a tempest of deceit and betrayal.

Upon turning 13, Truly is given a measure of technological freedom: a cellphone and access to social media. But this soon evolves into a quagmire of problems for Truly. When former BFF Natasha invites her to join the Popular Table during lunchtime and to collaborate on a school assignment, Truly is surprised but thrilled. However, Natasha’s overtures hide an ulterior motive. In the pursuit of popularity, Truly neglects her friendship with Hazel, who retaliates by plotting revenge utilizing social media. The Truly/Hazel dynamic is just one component of this interwoven story. Vail explores the motivations and private quandaries of the six characters who narrate the tale, from Jack, the quiet advocate for those excluded, to the socially conscious and manipulative Natasha, who yearns to be the most popular. With keen insight, Vail reveals the internal struggles with uncertainty and self-doubt that can plague young teens regardless of popularity status. Natasha’s schemes and Hazel’s misdeeds lead to a relentless barrage of bullying via social media for Truly. While a dramatic moment reveals the extent of Truly’s anguish, Vail concludes the tale with a resolution that is both realistic and hopeful.

Vail captures the complexity of middle school social challenges, insightfully addressing the issues of friendships and integrity. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-01307-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

more