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THE SLEDDING HILL

Eddie’s “high-speed randomness” and habit of blurting outlandish questions at school and church are unappreciated. Within three months, Eddie discovers the bodies of the two most reassuring people in his life: his dad and his best friend Billie. Traumatized, lonely and scared, Eddie elects the safety of mutism. In death, Billie continues to watch over Eddie. Unnerved by this haunting, Eddie turns to the refuge of conservative religion. When his fundamentalist minister tries to enlist Eddie in a crusade to ban a novel from the school, Eddie emails the author requesting a letter to be read at the school board hearing. Enter Crutcher as the author of the banned book . . . a character in his own story. This sly conceit works for Crutcher who disarmingly pokes fun at himself. Weaving together Eddie’s personal survival and his losing battle against censorship, this succeeds by limning its polemics with artful humor. This oft-censored author entertains, inspires, invites intellectual inquiry and concedes well-meaning motives to both sides . . . a lot to pack into a novel, but when did Crutcher ever pack light? (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-050243-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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BRONX MASQUERADE

At the end of the term, a new student who is black and Vietnamese finds a morsel of hope that she too will find a place in...

This is almost like a play for 18 voices, as Grimes (Stepping Out with Grandma Mac, not reviewed, etc.) moves her narration among a group of high school students in the Bronx.

The English teacher, Mr. Ward, accepts a set of poems from Wesley, his response to a month of reading poetry from the Harlem Renaissance. Soon there’s an open-mike poetry reading, sponsored by Mr. Ward, every month, and then later, every week. The chapters in the students’ voices alternate with the poems read by that student, defiant, shy, terrified. All of them, black, Latino, white, male, and female, talk about the unease and alienation endemic to their ages, and they do it in fresh and appealing voices. Among them: Janelle, who is tired of being called fat; Leslie, who finds friendship in another who has lost her mom; Diondra, who hides her art from her father; Tyrone, who has faith in words and in his “moms”; Devon, whose love for books and jazz gets jeers. Beyond those capsules are rich and complex teens, and their tentative reaching out to each other increases as through the poems they also find more of themselves. Steve writes: “But hey! Joy / is not a crime, though / some people / make it seem so.”

At the end of the term, a new student who is black and Vietnamese finds a morsel of hope that she too will find a place in the poetry. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2569-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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