CAST TWO SHADOWS

Skeletons come and go from a wealthy South Carolina family’s closet when the British army arrives in this tale set during the Revolutionary War. While sister Georgia Ann has taken to dining nightly with haughty Lord Rawdon, Caroline Whitaker, 14, scorns the occupying officer; she has seen a friend hanged and her Patriot father thrown into prison. Word comes that brother Johnny, a member of the Loyalist militia, has been wounded, so Caroline and her “negra” grandmother, Miz Melindy, set out to bring him home. Caroline not only learns that Johnny has switched sides, but that her birth mother, Miz Melindy’s daughter, didn’t die (as she had always been told); she was shipped off to the West Indies as the price of Caroline’s acceptance as a Whitaker. Deftly incorporating facts into the background but leaving most of the violence offstage, Rinaldi (Mine Eyes Have Seen, 1998, etc.) keeps the focus on her characters, developing an entertainingly contentious rapport between Caroline and Miz Melindy while strewing the cast with rough men and widowed or abandoned women. Georgia Ann eventually becomes Rawdon’s doxy, then is summarily dropped from the story, and Johnny, willing to risk his life to save his slave, breaks off with the Catawba women he had been seeing for years in the name of appearances. In the end, Caroline has no trouble marrying into a white family, a seeming paradox—considering the pervasive consciousness of racial differences here—that Rinaldi doesn’t explain. Anna Myers’s Keeping Room (1997), a less disingenuous story set in the same place and time, offers a more direct view of the unusual brutality that characterized the war in the Carolinas. (bibliography) (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-15-200881-0

Page Count: 277

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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CLOCKWORK ANGEL

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 1

A century before the events of Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy, another everyday heroine gets entangled with demon-slaying Shadowhunters. Sixteen-year-old orphaned Tessa comes to London to join her brother but is imprisoned by the grotesque Dark Sisters. The sisters train the unwilling Tessa in previously unknown shapeshifter abilities, preparing her to be a pawn in some diabolical plan. A timely rescue brings Tessa to the Institute, where a group of misfit Shadowhunters struggles to fight evil. Though details differ, the general flavor of Tessa’s new family will be enjoyably familiar to the earlier trilogy’s fans; the most important is Tessa’s rescuer Will, the gorgeous, sharp-tongued teenager with a mysterious past and a smile like “Lucifer might have smiled, moments before he fell from Heaven.” The lush, melodramatic urban fantasy setting of the Shadowhunter world morphs seamlessly into a steampunk Victorian past, and this new series provides the setup for what will surely be a climactic battle against hordes of demonically powered brass clockworks. The tale drags in places, but this crowdpleaser’s tension-filled conclusion ratchets toward a new set of mysteries. (Steampunk. 13-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7586-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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