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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Sanderson (Legion, 2018, etc.) plainly had a ball with this nonstop, highflying opener, and readers will too.

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SKYWARD

From the Skyward series , Vol. 1

Eager to prove herself, the daughter of a flier disgraced for cowardice hurls herself into fighter pilot training to join a losing war against aliens.

Plainly modeled as a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Conan the Barbarian (“I bathed in fires of destruction and reveled in the screams of the defeated. I didn’t get afraid”), Spensa “Spin” Nightshade leaves her previous occupation—spearing rats in the caverns of the colony planet Detritus for her widowed mother’s food stand—to wangle a coveted spot in the Defiant Defense Force’s flight school. Opportunities to exercise wild recklessness and growing skill begin at once, as the class is soon in the air, battling the mysterious Krell raiders who have driven people underground. Spensa, who is assumed white, interacts with reasonably diverse human classmates with varying ethnic markers. M-Bot, a damaged AI of unknown origin, develops into a comical sidekick: “Hello!...You have nearly died, and so I will say something to distract you from the serious, mind-numbing implications of your own mortality! I hate your shoes.” Meanwhile, hints that all is not as it seems, either with the official story about her father or the whole Krell war in general, lead to startling revelations and stakes-raising implications by the end. Stay tuned. Maps and illustrations not seen.

Sanderson (Legion, 2018, etc.) plainly had a ball with this nonstop, highflying opener, and readers will too. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-55577-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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