SIDE EFFECTS

Hilarious and harrowing by turns, Koss tells the story of an artistic 14-year-old girl whose garden-variety life goes bizarre when she’s diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Suddenly, she’s dealing with the alien world of the hospital, while finding that her cancer has made her a social alien in high school. Not that she has much time for socializing; she’s too busy throwing up from the chemotherapy and then too exhausted to care. The secondary characters, such as the heroine’s constantly crying, yet there-for-her-daughter mom, her loyal and gallant best friend and her honest and irritated little brother, ring true, as does the gallows humor and dead-on observations about hospital life. And the panoply of reactions from the heroine’s classmates as they cope with her cancer is simultaneously funny, anger inducing and astute. The plot is the situation—a girl contracts and is treated for the disease—and the happy ending is somewhat abrupt, but the telling is precisely voiced, funny and genuine, giving the reader a multifaceted look at a devastating experience. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59643-167-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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BURIED ONIONS

Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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