CARPE DIEM

A naïve teen learns how to carpe diem after spending an adventurous summer in Southeast Asia. Sixteen-year-old Vassar Spore attends a private school where she’s prepping to be valedictorian, attend Vassar College, marry a surgeon or judge, write a book and win a Pulitzer by age 37. Her life has been carefully scripted by her efficiency-expert father and life-coach mother. But Vassar’s hygienically sealed world capsizes when her parents reluctantly let her spend the summer backpacking through Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos with her bohemian Grandma Gerd. Suspecting that Grandma has blackmailed her parents, Vassar is determined to discover their “Big Secret.” A novice traveler, Vassar arrives in Melaka with ten pieces of matched luggage, her laptop on which she plans to convert her experiences into a novel for Advanced Placement credit, her Genteel Traveler’s Guides and her Portable Travel Planner. Appalled by Grandma Gert’s “live in the moment” philosophy, Vassar gradually jettisons her obsessive-compulsive behavior and emerges knowing who she really is and what she really wants as she travels from the temples of Angkor to the bamboo huts of Laos. A witty coming-of-age adventure. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36792-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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