The contrived plot and one-dimensional, outlandish characters broadly mimic, rather than evoke, the rich 1930s setting.

GIRL ABOUT TOWN

An over-the-top rags-to-riches story set in 1930s Hollywood.

Lucille O’Malley and her family are just barely scraping by on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Her father is debilitated by physical and emotional injuries sustained in World War I, so her mother has abandoned a teaching career to launder the delicates of wealthy women. In a far fancier neighborhood across town, Freddie van der Waals is regretting his entire lavish life to date: everything looks right and feels wrong, including his glamorous new fiancee, Violet. When Freddie discovers the shrewd villainy that’s powered his father’s business success, he abandons wealth and ease for a life on the road. The same night, Lucille witnesses an alleyway murder and, for her silence, is granted an opportunity to become a film star. In alternating, coincidence-laden third-person chapters, the renamed Lulu Kelly and Freddie embark on opposite journeys—she toward luxury and success, he toward near starvation—and meet in Los Angeles, their fates intertwining when Lulu becomes the chief suspect in a shooting on a set where Freddie is an extra. This pair of highly self-possessed, thinly developed white teenagers falls in love and solves the mystery, against a backdrop of Hollywood intrigue featuring historical figures like gossip doyenne Louella Parsons and early it girl Clara Bow.

The contrived plot and one-dimensional, outlandish characters broadly mimic, rather than evoke, the rich 1930s setting. (Historical mystery. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4787-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

TRASH

In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

more