THE PACT

A German boy comes of age during World War II.

Peter is only 10 in 1939 when his mother registers him for Gymnasium, an elite school for German children with “pure” families, and the Jungvolk, the social organization for children too young for the Hitler Youth. There he is taught that Aryans are scientifically superior to other races and plays war games. Though there is never enough to eat, Peter and his neighbors are heartened by Chancellor Hitler’s radio promises of success through duty and loyalty. But as the war continues, Peter’s disillusionment grows as he proceeds through the ranks of the believers. When he and his friends return to Hamburg after Hitler’s defeat, they find their city devastated and learn that their revered leader was a sadistic killer responsible for “the murder of six million souls.” The novel takes its time, hewing closely to true events and only really taking off in the last third, when Peter and his friends survive several narrow escapes as they flee their doomed camp. However, Lewis’ detailed setting descriptions will provide readers with an accurate portrait of war-torn Germany, Hungary, and Denmark. Such details as the arithmetic that asks children to calculate how much various quantities of disabled people cost the state and the wholesaler who gives Peter what he calls “one of the last oranges in Germany” bring the reality home to them.

Solid. (glossary, author’s note, author interview) (Historical fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-88995-544-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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

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Stronger books may exist about the 1960s, but female friendship tales never go out of style.

BAD GIRLS NEVER SAY DIE

For “bad girls,” hell can be a place on Earth.

In Houston in the early ’60s, girls only seem to have two choices: be a good girl and get married or be a bad girl and live your life. Fifteen-year-old Evie, from a working-class White family, became a bad girl after her sister’s shotgun wedding took her away from home. Mexican American neighbor Juanita, who smokes, drinks, wears intense eye makeup, and runs with the tough crowd, takes Evie under her wing, but despite the loyalty of this new sisterhood, Evie often feels uncertain of her place. When a rich girl from the wealthy part of town named Diane saves Evie from assault by killing the attacker, Evie finds a new friend and, through that friendship, discovers her own courage. This work borrows a few recognizable beats from S.E. Hinton’s 1967 classic, The Outsiders—class tensions, friendship, death, and a first-person narrative that frequently employs the word tuff—but with a gender-swapped spin. Overall, the novel would have benefited from a stronger evocation of the setting. During an era of societal upheaval, Evie struggles to reconcile her frustration at the limited roles defined for her and her friends, with many moments of understanding and reflection that will resonate with modern readers’ sensibilities—although sadly she still victim blames herself for the attempted assault.

Stronger books may exist about the 1960s, but female friendship tales never go out of style. (author's note, resources) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23258-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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