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

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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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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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A compelling novel that stands both on its own merit and as an addition to the wealth of Titanic literature.

MAIDEN VOYAGE

A TITANIC STORY

The tragic tale of the Titanic serves as backdrop for a series of smaller familial tragedies.

Three girls board the luxurious ship with no idea that their fates are soon to be irrevocably entwined. Lucy’s hope for this trip is for her parents to show affection for each other, though her father’s dark personality makes this unlikely. Abby, Lucy’s maid, hopes her secrets go undetected long enough for her to start a new life in America. And Isabella hopes to discover why her parents woke her in the night and made her board the Titanic—alone. An entertaining series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and revelations play out on various decks as the well-known climax approaches, this knowledge increasing the tension even further. In her debut novel, Jane liberally sprinkles historic references amid the action, including Marconi’s wireless and the women’s suffrage movement, to fold an authentic educational experience into the story. Jane shines at atmospheric descriptions of the opulence of the ship and the people themselves while also managing to bring her powers of keen observation to the third-class passengers, many of whom were immigrant families full of hope. The characters are white and of European background and straddle several economic classes.

A compelling novel that stands both on its own merit and as an addition to the wealth of Titanic literature. (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-22665-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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