FAT BOY SWIM

For foodies and sports fans who can tolerate details of bullying. Fourteen-year-old Jimmy is berated throughout his Glasgow community for being fat. He’s scorned by strangers, taunted by coaches, and punched by peers. When one of the taunting coaches takes him in hand and teaches him to swim, though, Jimmy’s life begins to turn around. He’s already a brilliant cook, but this skill has been kept secret; now that he can swim, he grows in confidence, shrinks in size, “comes out” as a chef, and has a tender romance with a girl who makes him melt. He’s also better equipped to handle emerging family secrets. It’s too bad that Forde’s voice joins the bullies’ in painting Jimmy’s size as fascinatingly repulsive with terms like “clammy flesh-mound”; such unfriendly narrative description lessens Jimmy’s personhood and his cheer-worthy victories. Otherwise, warm and full of vivid imagery. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2004

ISBN: 0-385-73205-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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STARGIRL

Newbery-winning Spinelli spins a magical and heartbreaking tale from the stuff of high school. Eleventh-grader Leo Borlock cannot quite believe the new student who calls herself Stargirl. Formerly home-schooled, Stargirl comes to their Arizona high school with a pet rat and a ukulele, wild clothes and amazing habits. She sings “Happy Birthday” to classmates in the lunchroom, props a small glass vase with a daisy on her desk each class, and reenergizes the cheerleading squad with her boundless enthusiasm. But Stargirl even cheers for the opposing team. She’s so threatening to the regular ways of her fellows that she’s shunned. No one will touch her or speak to her—or applaud her success when she wins a state speech tournament. Leo’s in love with her, but finds that if he’s with her, he’s shunned, too. She loves him enough to try to fit in, but when that fails spectacularly, she illuminates the spring school dance like a Roman candle and disappears. The desert—old bones, flowering cactus, scented silence—is a living presence here. So is the demon of conformity, a teen monster of what’s normal, a demon no less hideous because it’s so well internalized in us all. Leo chooses normalcy over star stuff, but looking back as an adult he finds Stargirl’s presence in a hundred different ways in his own and in his former classmates’ lives. Once again Spinelli takes his readers on a journey where choices between the self and the group must be made, and he is wise enough to show how hard they are, even when sweet. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-88637-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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