ESCAPE FROM EGYPT

In her most ambitious novel since The Return (1987), Levitin follows the events in Exodus through two young people: Jesse of the tribe of Benjamin and Jennat, an Egyptian/Syrian orphan he meets in the house where both are slaves. Caught in a petty theft, Jesse is condemned to the quarries but saved from certain death by Jennat's intervention. Her mistress gives Jennat as a concubine to her cruel husband; after the plagues, Jennat is among many non-Jews who follow Moses. The great leader, however, remains offstage, while significant events such as the bloodbath that followed the worship of the golden calf and the proclamation of the rigorous new laws are dramatized in the experiences of his followers: questioners, idolators, and unbelievers as well as the obedient (and sometimes fanatically) devout. Like Jesse, readers may find God's will hard to fathom: His violent retribution sweeps away bystanders along with sinners, and the righteous seem to suffer gratuitously. But in the end—after Jesse kills a kid that's been mauled by predators (a symbolic antithesis to the actions of the Good Shepherd)—he makes peace with both Jennat (their mutual attraction and bitter strife have figured throughout) and a God whose ``ways are not our ways.'' Jennat, too, accepts the one God who ``asks that you live well and do justice''—though His ways are mysterious, His moral superiority to other gods is clear. In a last chapter, the two recall the past for their children: ``...only those who remember their slavery will appreciate their freedom.'' A deeply felt novel, underlining the philosophical complexity of the story of the Jews' great covenant and their first return to their homeland. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-52273-2

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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