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Reviewing the Legends: YA

The format of this taut and moving drama forcefully regulates the pacing; breathless, edge-of-the-seat courtroom scenes...

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MONSTER

In a riveting novel from Myers (At Her Majesty’s Request, 1999, etc.), a teenager who dreams of being a filmmaker writes the story of his trial for felony murder in the form of a movie script, with journal entries after each day’s action.

Steve is accused of being an accomplice in the robbery and murder of a drug store owner. As he goes through his trial, returning each night to a prison where most nights he can hear other inmates being beaten and raped, he reviews the events leading to this point in his life. Although Steve is eventually acquitted, Myers leaves it up to readers to decide for themselves on his protagonist’s guilt or innocence.

The format of this taut and moving drama forcefully regulates the pacing; breathless, edge-of-the-seat courtroom scenes written entirely in dialogue alternate with thoughtful, introspective journal entries that offer a sense of Steve’s terror and confusion, and that deftly demonstrate Myers’s point: the road from innocence to trouble is comprised of small, almost invisible steps, each involving an experience in which a “positive moral decision” was not made. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-028077-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

Taylor trusts to her material and doesn't try to inflate Cassie's role in these events, and though the strong, clear-headed...

ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY

At first Cassie Logan and her brothers, a year or so older than they were in the much briefer, Song of the Trees, (1975) are only dimly aware of rumors that two men have been killed and one badly burned by a white mob.

Then Mary, their mother, tries to organize a boycott against the Wallaces, the local storeowners and instigators of the violence, and Logan land and lives are put on the line. Cassie's own spirit is demonstrated straight off, on the first day of the school year, when she refuses to accept a schoolbook labeled "condition—very poor, race of student—nigra." Like her parents, Cassie learns that she must pick her shots carefully to survive, and she takes pains to learn a few blackmail-level secrets from her special tormentor, Miz Lillian Jean, before giving the older girl a good thrashing. Tragically though, brother Stacey's friend T.J. who isn't so careful, starts hanging around with the Wallace boys and winds up facing a lynch mob after they talk him into helping them rob a store. Although the Logans, whose ownership of desirable farmland has made them a target of white persecution, live in a virtual state of siege, and even after Papa sets fire to his own cotton to divert the attention of the mob from T.J., the story ends unmelodramatically not far from where it began—after a string of hard-fought victories and as many bitter defeats and with the money for the next tax payment on the land still not in sight.

Taylor trusts to her material and doesn't try to inflate Cassie's role in these events, and though the strong, clear-headed Logan family is no doubt an idealization, their characters are drawn with quiet affection and their actions tempered with a keen sense of human fallibility.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1976

ISBN: 978-0-8037-2647-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1976

SPEAK

A frightening and sobering look at the cruelty and viciousness that pervade much of contemporary high school life, as real as today’s headlines. At the end of the summer before she enters high school, Melinda attends a party at which two bad things happen to her. She gets drunk, and she is raped. Shocked and scared, she calls the police, who break up the party and send everyone home. She tells no one of her rape, and the other students, even her best friends, turn against her for ruining their good time. By the time school starts, she is completely alone, and utterly desolate. She withdraws more and more into herself, rarely talking, cutting classes, ignoring assignments, and becoming more estranged daily from the world around her. Few people penetrate her shell; one of them is Mr. Freeman, her art teacher, who works with her to help her express what she has so deeply repressed. When the unthinkable happens—the same upperclassman who raped her at the party attacks her again’something within the new Melinda says no, and in repelling her attacker, she becomes whole again. The plot is gripping and the characters are powerfully drawn, but it is its raw and unvarnished look at the dynamics of the high school experience that makes this a novel that will be hard for readers to forget. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-37152-0

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

It’s an unashamed paean to the immigrant’s spirit, tenacity and guts, perfectly crafted for maximum effect.

THE ARRIVAL

An astonishing wordless graphic novel blends historical imagery with science-fiction elements to depict—brilliantly—the journey of an immigrant man from his terror-beset land of origin to a new, more peaceful home.

Sepia-toned panels and turn-of-the-last-century dress and architecture seem to place readers in familiar territory—but fantastical images, including monumental cities, various bizarre forms of air transport and distinctly alien animals serve to unsettle both protagonist and readers, plunging the latter into the unsettling and often terrifying experience of being alone in a new land. Perhaps the most ingenious touch is the use of a newly created alien alphabet printed everywhere—on signs, official papers, maps, etc.—which renders the literate entirely helpless. Frightening this new land may be, but there are friends everywhere, from the other immigrants who help the protagonist and tell their own tales of escape from oppression, war and fear to the whimsical beastie who attaches itself to him as his pet. Small panels move the story along; full- and double-page spreads provide dazzling panoramas.

It’s an unashamed paean to the immigrant’s spirit, tenacity and guts, perfectly crafted for maximum effect. (Graphic novel. 10+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-439-89529-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

Mature young readers will respect the uncompromising ending that dares disturb the upbeat universe of juvenile books.

THE CHOCOLATE WAR

Vicious and violent mob cruelty in a boy's prep school is not a new theme but Cormier makes it compellingly immediate in this novel of Trinity High, a boys' day school with the close, concentrated, self-contained atmosphere of a boarding school, temporarily headed by the venomous, manipulating Brother Leon and unofficially run by power-obsessed senior Archie Costello, the ingeniously audacious "assigner" for a secret organization called the Vigils.

A typical Vigils assignment, which no student would consider refusing, is to spend the night undoing the screws of all the desks and chairs in one classroom, so that they collapse on touch next morning. More serious though is the assignment given to freshman Jerry Renault, who must refuse for 10 days to participate in the chocolate sale on which Brother Leon has staked his position. In strong, staccato scenes that shift from one boy to another Cormier tells about Jerry's persecution when he decides spontaneously to go on saying no after his ten days are up and Brother Leon induces Archie to see this as defiance of the Vigils. No underworld gang closing in on a victim is more menacing than this teenage army led by a Leon-Archie alliance against one boy whose locker poster reads "Do I Dare Disturb the Universe."

Mature young readers will respect the uncompromising ending that dares disturb the upbeat universe of juvenile books.

Pub Date: March 12, 1974

ISBN: 978-0-394-82805-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1974

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 1

In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility.

As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories—painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing.

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a...

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

Pullman (The Tin Princess, 1994, etc.) returns to the familiar territory of Victorian England, but this time inhabits an alternate Earth, where magic is an ordinary fact of life.

Lyra Belacqua and her daemon familiar Pantalaimon spend their days teasing the scholars of Jordan College until her uncle, Lord Asriel, announces that he's learned of astonishing events taking place in the far north involving the aurora borealis. When Lyra rescues Asriel from an attempt on his life, it is only the beginning of a torrent of events that finds Lyra willingly abducted by the velvet Mrs. Coulter, a missionary of pediatric atrocities; a journey with gyptian clansmen to rescue the children who are destined to be severed from their daemons (an act that is clearly hideous); and Lyra's discovery of her unusual powers and destiny. Lyra may suffer from excessive spunk, but she is thorough, intelligent, and charming. The author's care in recreating Victorian speech affectations never hinders the action; copious amounts of gore will not dissuade the squeamish, for resonating at the story's center is the twinkling image of a celestial city.

This first fantastic installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy propels readers along with horror and high adventure, a shattering tale that begins with a promise and delivers an entire universe. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 978-0-679-87942-4

Page Count: 397

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

An important addition to American history fiction collections.

THE WINTER PEOPLE

In 1759, in the midst of the global conflict between France and England, a little village in Quebec was a small arena of the larger conflict.

The English, with the help of Stockbridge Indian scouts, attacked the Abenaki village of St. Francis, allied with the French. According to Major Robert Rogers’s account, the attack was a huge success for the English: the village was devastated and the Abenakis wiped out. Bruchac tells the Abenaki version of the story, which is, apparently, borne out by modern historians. In this story, through the eyes of Saxso, a young Abenaki boy, the village was indeed attacked by the Bostoniak, their name for the English, but the attack was not a complete success. Much of the village was destroyed, and loved ones were killed or kidnapped. But the surviving Abenakis exacted a toll on the fleeing Bostoniak, and players in the story, such as Saxso, followed the Bostoniak and rescued family members. It seems a fair-minded account. Saxso acknowledges the help he had along the way, from the teachings of parents and his uncle, his great-grandfather, a Stockbridge warrior who admired Saxso’s courage, and—near the end of the journey south toward Crown Point on Lake Champlain—the kindness of two white people who helped heal his wounds. Bruchac’s passion is for retelling the “untold or misrepresented events of history,” and this is one of his best-written novels. He keeps the focus small—one boy’s story in this one incident—and, through it, weaves in much related history for context. The author succeeds in making the point of the story universal: the importance of not becoming consumed with hating an enemy who has winter in his heart, but “how necessary it is to always keep the summer in our hearts.”

An important addition to American history fiction collections. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8037-2694-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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