MISSING

As 13-year-old Maxine assaults an arcade video game, the reader is dropped into the fray and knows that this girl is suffering from more than teen angst. It has been ten months since her brother Derek ran away from home: a final desperate solution to escape a rabid school bully. Derek had found his parents unhelpful, and they are now so burdened with sorrow that they hardly notice Maxine except to scold. When Derek is confirmed dead, Maxine’s grief is complicated by a sense of relief that is soon followed by desolation as she sees that his death has only made him a bigger presence in the household. The story takes an eerie turn when Maxine starts getting phone calls from the cemetery, the ghostly voice of Derek coming down the line, and her mother begins sensing Derek’s presence through mediums. Is someone playing a wicked trick? Is Derek a ghost? Is Derek still alive? The pace quickens and MacPhail, a newcomer to US publishing, steadily delivers goose-bump-raising tidbits to keep those pages turning. The tale is so involving that when the ending arrives it is too soon, but certainly not disappointing, as it is both frightening and triumphant. The story, with characters as palpable as this page, works on many levels: it explores the complexity of grief and love, the devastating fact of runaways living on the street, and the powerful menace of bullies, all in the guise of a good old-fashioned ghost story. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-58234-773-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2002

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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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