PAPER TRAIL

An Oklahoma teenager sees his mother gunned down, then becomes the quarry of a militia group in this page-turner-with-a-twist. Hidden in a log, Walker hears the shot and the falling body, peers through a knothole to see the corpse and the armed men who come to haul it away, then sets off, numbly but cautiously, through the Oklahoma woods toward the nearest town. Gilbert (Broken Chords, 1998) fills in the back story as he goes, but the life that Walker has made for himself over the ten years since he and his parents moved into the remote area has gone glimmering in the wake of his father David’s sudden revelation that he’s an undercover FBI agent sent to infiltrate the local “Soldiers of God.” Cover blown, the family had split up in an effort to escape—so where is David? Alive or also dead? The author tumbles together short chapters of current action with flashbacks and actual, ominous passages from recent books and articles about the militia movement, cranking up the suspense as Walker is injured, recaptured, then escapes, rescuing his father along the way. And then, Walker’s entire heroic flight is revealed as a trauma-induced hallucination, spun out over days of semi-comatose reaction to his mother’s murder. By the end, months after at least some of the Soldiers of God have been rounded up, he is just beginning to heal, and to forgive his dad. Focusing most closely on Walker’s mental state, the author only sketches out the individual characters of his captors (many of whom are neighbors or schoolmates), leaving a more distinct impression of their rhetoric and capacity for violence than their motivations. Still, readers will be hooked by the intensity of this nightmarish psychodrama. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: May 31, 2000

ISBN: 1-886910-11-1

Page Count: 168

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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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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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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