Surprisingly heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-16)

PLAY ME BACKWARDS

In his final year of high school, Leon must choose between maintaining his comfortable existence or blowing it all up to chase something greater. 

Leon is on track to do nothing extraordinary with his life. He works at the local ice cream shop alongside his best friend, Stan, and hangs out with the screwballs and weirdos that come in. The gang shuns such bourgeois drudgery as the SATs and college applications in favor of typical teenage tomfoolery, but there’s a fine line between a smart, bored kid and a burnout. Leon is the former. When a few moments of chance bring him and popular girl Paige together, Leon begins to shake out of his slacker stupor. This is a particularly smart and sweet teenage love story, refusing to rely on burning passion or overwrought sentiment. There’s an emotional maturity in the way Selzer draws Leon and Paige’s courtship. It is by far the best part of the book. Less engaging are the peripheral characters, particularly Stan, a kid who believes that he’s the devil himself. The character and his influence on the story just don’t work, and time spent with him feels wasted when it could be spent elsewhere. Leon’s journey to personal responsibility is another topic well-tackled, making this an engaging, character-driven piece with several pros that mightily outweigh the cons. 

Surprisingly heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0104-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

HIT

A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Carrick (Melanie, 1996, etc.) sensitively explores the pain of a parent’s death through the eyes, feelings, and voice of a nine-year-old boy whose world turns upside down when his father becomes terminally ill with cancer. Through a fictional reminiscence, the story explores many of the issues common to children whose parents are ill—loss of control, changes in physical appearance and mental ability, upsets in daily routine, experiences of guilt and anger, the reaction of friends, and, most of all, a fear of the unknown. Although the book suffers from a pat ending and the black-and-white sketches emphasize the bleakness of the topic, this title is a notch above pure bibliotherapy and will fill a special niche for children struggling to deal with the trauma of parental sickness and death. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-84151-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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