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POLITICAL TIMBER

The prospect of a blissful senior year darkens for a teenager when he's swept into the local political arena. With best bud Mosi, a one-man garage band, and Sweaty Betty, ``the most excellent girl since the beginning of girls,'' by his side, it looks like smooth sailing for Gordie—especially after Fins Foley, his ex-mayor grandpa, currently serving five-to-fifteen for racketeering, loans him a pristine 1963 Studebaker Gran Tourismo convertible. There's a price for those wheels: As a ploy to scare Fins's chosen successor back into line, Gordie enters the primary mayoral election. Hilarious complications ensue, as Gordie unwisely joins sleazy radio talk-jock Mad Matt Baker on the air, runs for senior class president, and sees his every ill-considered utterance instantly leaked to a rabid press. Beneath the belly-laughs and blipped one-liners, Lynch goes easy on his cast: The caricatures are relatively gentle; Gordie's friends may not be mental giants, but they are caring; and Gordie doesn't fumble the important passes. The mood becomes more earnest toward the end, as Gordie realizes that the campaign was just a way of easing Fins into retirement. The satire has a nip, but it's not as savage as Lynch's Blue-Eyed Son trilogy (Mick, 1996, etc.). (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-027360-7

Page Count: 168

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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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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NEVER FALL DOWN

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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