BURNING UP

From Cooney (The Voice on the Radio, 1996, etc.), a hard look at the tacit, unacknowledged racism that lurks beneath the surface of an affluent, supposedly enlightened community. Macey loves her Connecticut town. Her grandparents, Papa and Nana, provide a home for her during the frequent absences of her upwardly mobile parents; school and friends are great; and handsome Austin is taking a flattering interest in her. The only thing that worries her is the reaction she gets from everyone she asks about a mysterious fire in 1959 that destroyed a local barn, and a renovated apartment within it, where a black teacher lived. When Macey is assigned community service painting an inner- city church, she is paired with a parishioner, Venita, and they bond, immediately. That day, however, an arsonist sets fire to the church, and they and others are almost killed. Macey is shocked at the viciousness of the act, and more curious about the long-ago fire near her home. When Venita is killed trying to protect a little girl from a gang, Macey grieves and begins to question seriously the chasm of hate between blacks and whites. The truth about the 1959 fire, which was deliberately set and witnessed by those closest to her, nearly destroys her. This thought-provoking story has a powerful message, effortlessly woven into the ordinary trappings of a teenager’s life. Cooney allows for no cozy ending; as Macey faces what racism has done to her community, readers will question what it has done to theirs. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32318-2

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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BURIED ONIONS

Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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