BROKEN CHORDS

Gilbert (Stone Water, 1996, etc.) writes sympathetically about a musical prodigy who yearns to be a normal teenager; a story that could have easily fallen to clichÇ becomes a penetrating study of the difference between technical brilliance and true virtuosity. Clara Alexander Lorenzo has never really considered her parents’ pronouncements that she must share her gifts with the world; suddenly, at 17, and a finalist in a competition that would assure her a full scholarship at Juilliard, she finds that the idea of becoming a concert pianist leaves her hollow. In this involving novel, the other characters are acutely drawn, each representing a part of Clara herself—Holly, her cheerleading best friend; Marshall, a committed pianist and intense love-interest; her parents, whose hopes and dreams are wrapped up in music; and Tashi, her gentle, guiding teacher, whose wisdom, perceptions, and stories of her sacrifices in her Russian homeland give Clara courage. Descriptive passages of playing are well-crafted, and Clara’s doubts about the piano are effectively juxtaposed with her passion for ballet’she is not particularly adept, but it stirs something in her. The tension builds to the competition, ending with Clara’s decision and small, unexpected gestures from the people she loves. A compassionate work. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1998

ISBN: 1-886910-23-5

Page Count: 188

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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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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