Envisioning a nightmarish future in which children deemed small or otherwise defective are worked to death breaking rocks, and the constant rain is so acid it raises blisters, Rapp (Buffalo Tree, 1997) crafts another lurid shocker. Learning that the coffin maker who has housed her is about to sell her off, 11-year-old Whensday, also known as “33” for the tattoo on her arm, sneaks away. Cataloging the disease, excrement, blood, vomit, mutations, slime, and general filth with matter-of-fact bluntness, she takes temporary shelter from the rain with Honeycut, a huge, dimwitted teenager; tries to escape with another fugitive who dies of ebola-like Blackfrost; is raped by an officer of the brutal local militia; and sees Honeycut stoned to death for killing the man. Whensday tells her tale in a colorful idiolect, mixing dreams and scatological exchanges with Oakley, a tough-talking younger friend. Certain she’s about to die since she can’t stop vomiting, Whensday is rescued by a hidden community of women who clean her up and tell her she’s pregnant—a happy ending, under the circumstances. Often gripping, sometimes blackly funny in a squalid way, this will remind readers of Russell Hoban’s Ridley Walker (1980) and other tales of post-apocalyptic devastation. (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1999

ISBN: 1-886910-42-1

Page Count: 250

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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In a well-written gambol through weirdness, Skinner (The Wrecker, 1995, etc.) offers four highly imaginative short stories about young people with supernatural powers. In the first story, Jenny can change the world, and change history, by changing the maps she draws. The narrator, Laurie, knows Jenny is out of control, and when Jenny creates a second sun and splits the earth in two, Laurie is ready to act. The second story is about a world where people “bop”—instant travel just by thinking of a location—instead of walking from one place to another. Mae, however, either can’t bop, or won’t, a prospect that intrigues the narrator. In the third tale, Meredith, who has a supernatural connection with the planet Pluto, and Dexter, who is able to spray-paint with his mind, unite their powers. In the fourth and longest story, Jake finds himself deeply in love with a religious girl, Louise, and both of them are tempted by the powers a metahuman, Nina, has bestowed upon them. All four stories will captivate readers, and may even get them thinking about deeper ideas. Skinner’s often humorous portrayal of young adolescents is on target, and while the stories resemble writing exercises, lacking the sustained, pulse-pounding poetic turns of his novels, they are consistently entertaining. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80556-X

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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From McLaren (Inside the Walls of Troy, 1996, etc.), a riveting page-turner that once again brings a feminine perspective to a classical adventure: Odysseus’s journey as seen by his wife, Penelope; the witch, Circe; the goddess, Athena; and a trusted family servant, Eurycleia. The unique first-person narrative revives Homer’s ancient tale, making it newly believable and enjoyable to read. The tale begins with the meeting of Penelope and Odysseus and Penelope’s forthright desire to have him for her husband. Helen’s vanity is apparent in this version, and Circe’s disdain of all mortal men—because of a bad marriage—is explained. The goddess Athena acts as Odysseus’s guide, mentor, and protector. In the end comes the realization that not only did Odysseus make a journey, but so did Penelope, managing an estate for 20 years, raising a son on her own, and serving unruly guests without complaint; her commitment to Odysseus is continually tested by his delayed return, but she regains control in the end when she tricks the ultimate trickster (Odysseus) with her own test regarding the removal of the olive tree bed. Full of such twists and turns, this book shines new light on mythic figures and their voyages, and may send voracious readers back to the original. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82875-6

Page Count: 149

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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