PALMER’S GATE by Barry Varela


Age Range: 11 - 13
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In 1972, though he’s lived in Palmers Gate, N.J. for three years, ten-year-old Robby still feels like the new kid. He has plenty of friends, but they’ve all known each other since kindergarten. Then Colleen Lardner moves into the house behind Robby’s. She is mostly silent and wears outmoded clothes. Robby’s classmates make fun of her, but Robby senses something wrong in Colleen’s house. He doesn’t know how to help her, and he begins to react violently when playing with his friends. He knows she needs rescuing even if he can’t put into words what she needs rescuing from. To save her he decides he must destroy her prison. At its start, Varela’s first novel is a well-constructed portrait of a confused child. Set in a time before children saw family abuse nightly on television dramas, Robby’s bewilderment is quite real. However, the abrupt conclusion, a violent one, feels contrived. If Robby had no trusted adults in his life, his actions at crisis might be more believable, but his choice is not right for the rest of the story. Not for every collection, but perhaps useful as bibliotherapy or for discussion. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-59643-073-7
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2006