Charlie’s cleareyed account delivers a powerful anti-war statement without a hint of pedantry


All things considered, Charlie had been having a pretty good summer.

He had a new friend in his refugee neighbor Pavel “Pav” Duda, a new man cave (actually an old shed), and a new way to get Erin F’s attention. But his life changes completely when Old Country tries to bomb Little Town to smithereens. It is tempting to overlay current political unrest onto this novel, but by naming the warring regions Little Town and Old Country, Conaghan creates a timeless allegory. The differences between the people of Little Town and Old Country are not disclosed, but Pav’s name, speech, and blue eyes are used to mark him as an “Old Country bastard.” Charlie and the other Little Town citizens speak a “lingo” characterized by idioms and colloquialisms that separates them both from our reality and from Old Country refugees like Pav, whose command of the grammar is shaky. This lingo, together with Charlie’s sense of humor, makes the tone deceptively light. The slow pace allows the tension to build imperceptibly, like a crane lifting an anvil over the heads of unsuspecting readers. Conaghan tackles the complexities of war, occupation, and totalitarianism in a direct and accessible way, portraying violence frankly but without sensationalism. Charlie’s understanding of what is taught about others versus what is actually the truth speaks volumes.

Charlie’s cleareyed account delivers a powerful anti-war statement without a hint of pedantry .(Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-838-9

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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