LIFE IS FINE

For 15-year-old Samara Tuttle, life is anything but fine. Set against a gritty, gray, urban landscape, Samara lives with her absentee mother, and Q—her mother’s abusive, philandering and generally worthless boyfriend. With no positive role models in her life, Samara chronically skips school, chain-smokes and spends her days at the zoo imagining a friendship with a monkey she names Dru. Even Samara’s teachers are lackluster examples of adulthood, wearing “low rise jeans and flip flops.” When Mr. Holbrook, a new sub donning a dapper suit and a love of poetry, starts at Samara’s school, she is instantly smitten—even though he’s old enough to be her grandfather. Samara’s need to have a responsible, positive adult force in her life evolves into something inappropriate, but Mr. Holbrook turns out to be a more surprising and beneficial force in her life than Samara could have imagined. Though prone to some convenient plot liberties, Whittenberg has penned an overall hopeful tale for Samara, like the Langston Hughes poem for which the novel was named. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 11, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-73480-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

FIVE FEET APART

A hospital is an unlikely place for first love, but for two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who have a history of extended stays, it proves to be a realistic yet difficult backdrop.

Stella is a high school senior who is dedicated to her CF treatments while Will, a talented artist, is home-schooled and anticipating his 18th birthday, when he will be free to make his own medical decisions. Despite rocky first impressions, Stella and Will make a deal—Will must stick to his treatment regimen, and in return, Stella will model for him while he draws her portrait. This leads to romance, but the combination of CF and Will’s infection with B. cepacia requires that he must stay several feet away from Stella, making physical touch an impossibility. Stella eventually understands why living on the edge can be freeing, and Will begins taking his treatment regimen seriously—leading to their only bit of meaningful development. The novel is written in alternating chapters, creating a few unexpected plot developments, but much of it is predictable and forgettable due to thin characterization. All characters are presumed white except for gay, Colombian CF patient Poe, whose story arc fulfills tired stereotypical tropes and who seems to function mostly as a catalyst for Stella’s growth.

The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3733-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

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TWILIGHT

From the Twilight series , Vol. 1

Sun-loving Bella meets her demon lover in a vampire tale strongly reminiscent of Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. When Bella moves to rainy Forks, Wash., to live with her father, she just wants to fit in without drawing any attention. Unfortunately, she’s drawn the eye of aloof, gorgeous and wealthy classmate Edward. His behavior toward Bella wavers wildly between apparent distaste and seductive flirtation. Bella learns Edward’s appalling (and appealing) secret: He and his family are vampires. Though Edward nobly warns Bella away, she ignores the human boys who court her and chooses her vampiric suitor. An all-vampire baseball game in a late-night thunderstorm—an amusing gothic take on American family togetherness that balances some of the tale’s romantic excesses—draws Bella and her loved ones into terrible danger. This is far from perfect: Edward’s portrayal as monstrous tragic hero is overly Byronic, and Bella’s appeal is based on magic rather than character. Nonetheless, the portrayal of dangerous lovers hits the spot; fans of dark romance will find it hard to resist. (Fantasy. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-316-16017-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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