Hard battles form this satisfying novel’s throughline, some fought in the open but most won or lost in the heart.

FING'S WAR

As if weathering adolescence weren’t hard enough, war casts Fing into further maelstroms of terror and heartbreak in this sequel to Nine Open Arms (2014).

As a narrator, Josephine “Fing” Boon makes a particularly sharp-tongued, angry, and naïve observer of events. It’s hard to blame her for coming across as unlikable. The series of scourges she endures begins with having to leave school to take a job as hired companion to Liesl—a demanding, manipulative, and deeply traumatized child in the household of the Dutch town’s wealthy Cigar Emperor and his German wife, called, in the region’s Limburgish slang, the Pruusin. It continues with the departure of her first boyfriend, who returns a Nazi-sympathizing Blackshirt, and the unexpected arrival of what she deems her “Red Flood.” It escalates through the German occupation, increasing hardships, a devastating family breakup, and the rescue of one of her two sisters from being bundled aboard a train with a group of Jewish deportees…including, shockingly, the Pruusin. As the absorbingly complex narrative progresses, Fing isn’t the only character in the white-default cast apt to leave readers with conflicted sympathies. Coming almost as a relief, the emotional bombshells ultimately culminate in an air raid’s physical one that leaves Fing and readers poised with no end in sight.

Hard battles form this satisfying novel’s throughline, some fought in the open but most won or lost in the heart. (cast list, glossaries) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59270-269-5

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Chilling, difficult, and definitely not for readers without a solid understanding of the Holocaust despite the relatively...

THE BOY AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN

A young boy grows up in Adolf Hitler’s mountain home in Austria.

Seven-year-old Pierrot Fischer and his frail French mother live in Paris. His German father, a bitter ex-soldier, returned to Germany and died there. Pierrot’s best friend is Anshel Bronstein, a deaf Jewish boy. After his mother dies, he lives in an orphanage, until his aunt Beatrix sends for him to join her at the Berghof mountain retreat in Austria, where she is housekeeper for Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. It is here that he becomes ever more enthralled with Hitler and grows up, proudly wearing the uniform of the Hitler Youth, treating others with great disdain, basking in his self-importance, and then committing a terrible act of betrayal against his aunt. He witnesses vicious acts against Jews, and he hears firsthand of plans for extermination camps. Yet at war’s end he maintains that he was only a child and didn’t really understand. An epilogue has him returning to Paris, where he finds Anshel and begins a kind of catharsis. Boyne includes real Nazi leaders and historical details in his relentless depiction of Pierrot’s inevitable corruption and self-delusion. As with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006), readers both need to know what Pierrot disingenuously doesn’t and are expected to accept his extreme naiveté, his total lack of awareness and comprehension in spite of what is right in front of him.

Chilling, difficult, and definitely not for readers without a solid understanding of the Holocaust despite the relatively simple reading level. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-030-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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