Fresh, well-described setting and vibrant characters, with one or two missteps.

BARBERRY HILL

After his brother is shot execution style, a Caribbean teenager decides to investigate and clear his name in this YA novel.

On Barberry Hill, St. Kitts, social and economic differences are echoed in its topography. The mansions of the rich sit on the hilltop, while down below are shacks housing poor people and drug dealers. In between but closer to the top, 14-year-old Jaden lives with his brother, Rashid, who’s 16; his father; and grandmother. His mother has been working in America since he was 6, sending home barrels of gifts but never visiting. That is, until she has to return for Rashid’s funeral. He was shot in the head right outside his house in what everyone, including the police and Rashid’s father, assumes is gang violence. But Jaden doesn’t buy it. Rashid must have been unlucky. Seeing his mother again stirs up conflicting emotions in Jaden. With the help of his best friends, MJ and Stein, Jaden decides to prove his brother’s innocence of gang ties and restore his reputation. The friends risk beatings or worse to find the truth—which holds some surprises. Ottley-Mitchell (The Complete Collection of Chee Chee’s Adventures, 2017, etc.) has written other children’s and young-adult books set in the Caribbean, and she evokes her setting well, an unusual one for YA literature. She doesn’t shy away from the sometimes-harsh realities of Jaden’s St. Kitts, where gangs rule the school and seemingly “every day you heard about somebody getting gunned down.” She skillfully captures Jaden’s grief, anxiety, feelings of abandonment, fear, and other stormy emotions, as well as the rhythms of friendship and dialogue among teenage boys. Problems include repetition (Jaden’s mission gets stated too often for a short book) and a weak, clichéd motivation for Jaden’s father’s apparent lack of interest in pursuing Rashid’s murder.

Fresh, well-described setting and vibrant characters, with one or two missteps.

Pub Date: June 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9978900-2-0

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CaribbeanReads Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2017

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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