Lightweight fluff in the Chris Lynch/Chris Crutcher mode, if that's possible


Fraud pays.

“Pohi” seems like a great last name for a fictional high-school applicant invented in an International House of Pancakes: IHOP, Pohi, see? It's a a lark for Bobby and his friends, sitting there surrounded by all those privileged Whitestone Prep kids, to fill out a Whitestone application for "Rowan Pohi," Boy Scout, National Honor Society inductee, soup-kitchen volunteer and football player. But when "Rowan" gets accepted to Whitestone, Bobby takes a good hard look at his wrong-side-of-the-tracks life and realizes this could be the opportunity of a lifetime. Whitestone's teachers and facilities are miles away from those of Bobby's crappy public high school, and of course there's the girls. Bobby almost immediately falls for Heather, "a study in whiteness: white T-shirt, white shorts, white teeth, blonde hair. And long legs." Bobby has antagonists both in and out of school, but his ultimate success at Whitestone seems undeserved; the class inequities of the system are less important to the Whitestone decision-makers than the fact that Bobby’s a nice guy with a tragic back story. A recurring evocation of faux–Native American stories, culminating in a 5-year-old's assertion that "[b]eing Spider-Man is way cooler than being an Indian," will insult Native (and other) readers.

Lightweight fluff in the Chris Lynch/Chris Crutcher mode, if that's possible . (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-57208-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Wrenching, dark, and powerful—no fluke, considering its model.


An ancient war draws to a climax as a vengeful—and literally hard-nosed—sea captain seeks out a demonic killer.

Ness (Release, 2017, etc.) mines Moby Dick for incidents and motifs, pitting men against whales in a futuristic alternate world. Along with telling the tale from a young whale’s point of view, he reverses the usual orientation of the universe so that cetacean crews go down to meet their enemies at the threshold where oceans give way to the deep, unknowable Abyss of air. In a conflict that has raged for millennia, both sides wield harpoons and store their savagely dismembered opponents in wooden hulls for transport. Having seen her own mother ambushed and torn to pieces, Bathsheba eagerly joins Capt. Alexandra, who bears the stub of a harpoon in her head, in ramming ships to splinters. But the reflective narrator catches profound glimpses of how destructive implacable mutual hatred can be to both body and soul as her captain’s obsessive search for the white ship of the universally feared Toby Wick leads through massacres and chancy encounters to a melodramatic confrontation. The story, though far shorter than its progenitor, conjures similar allegorical weight by pairing the narrative’s rolling cadences with powerful, shadowy illustrations featuring looming whales, an upside-down ship in full sail, and swarms of red-eyed sharks, all amid dense swirls of water and blood.

Wrenching, dark, and powerful—no fluke, considering its model. (Fantasy. 13-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-286072-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Basing her novel on a one-page story written by an 11-year-old child shortly before her death from leukemia, Bennett (Life in the Fat Lane, 1998, etc.) creates a tale of courage personified. A herd of miniature zebras appears before Becky Zaslow on the day she is diagnosed with childhood cancer—leukemia. During times of painful treatment, the zebras take Becky away to Africa and the Serengeti where they fight off tough predators, cross the treacherous crocodile-filled Mara River, and tell tales about Zink, a mythological polka-dotted zebra. Becky’s secret journal outlines the course of each treatment and is interspersed with the tale of these playful zebras; they help her to remain courageous despite her fears. The zebras, not medical professionals, prepare Becky for death when her bone marrow transplant fails and she succumbs to a respiratory infection. As one of the zebras, Ice Z, tells her, “True courage is admitting we’re afraid and fighting the predators anyway.” After her death, Becky, as Zink, joins the zebra herd. With three pages of acknowledgments and a lengthy afterword, readers may gain more than they need to know about the true aspects of this poignant story, but the embellishments don’t interfere with the raw emotions explored, or the power of Becky’s journey as she learns to run with the herd. (glossary) (Fiction 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32669-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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