Lovers of hip, edgy or meta should look elsewhere, but this story carries its own brand of modest delight for the right...

FROM WILLA, WITH LOVE

FROM THE LIFE OF WILLA HAVISHAM

Crammed with incident, yet loose and rambling and without much dramatic arc, this slice-of-life novel, the sixth in the series, charts Willa’s life, loves and personal growth though part of an event-filled summer.

There’s something refreshing and rather fabulous about the slightly dull Willa Havisham books (Willa by Heart, 2008, etc.). They star the nicest, most well-adjusted, dependable 14-year-old in the world, a book-loving girl who does her chores in the family business with good grace, loves the nurturing, community-minded adults in her life and strives to be the best person she can be. She doesn’t wear Jimmy Choos, obsess about her weight or, heaven forbid, smoke (anything); instead she tries to come up with a charitable project that’s really her. Not to say there’s no conflict. Willa wrestles with her feelings about her once-best friend, has minor disagreements with her driven businesswoman mother and is distressed (but also exhilarated) when she finds herself attracted to two boys at the same time. Set in a charming, fictional Cape Cod community, the story strolls along, never generating a great deal of heat or suspense, yet managing to keep readers involved and interested.

Lovers of hip, edgy or meta should look elsewhere, but this story carries its own brand of modest delight for the right reader. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-09405-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death...

THE EDGE OF FALLING

Wealthy high school junior Mcalister “Caggie” Caulfield seeks relief from grief over her younger sister’s death by entering into a dangerous relationship with a mysterious boy.

After her little sister drowns in the pool at her family’s beach house in the Hamptons, Caggie wants to die too, to the point that she contemplates jumping off the roof at a friend’s party in Manhattan. A schoolmate named Kristen saves her at the last minute but nearly falls herself. Caggie actually ends up pulling Kristen back and is credited as a hero, which only makes her feel worse. In her grief, Caggie spurns the attentions of her best friend and devoted boyfriend, but she finds a kindred spirit in Astor, a tall, dark and damaged new boy at school who recently lost his mother to cancer. But what Caggie comes to realize about her relationship with Astor is that “[d]arkness stacked on darkness just makes it that much harder to find the light.” After another nearly fatal disaster with Astor at the beach house, Caggie is forced to confront the falsehoods she has told her family and friends and let go of her guilt over her sister’s death. Though Caggie makes a point of telling readers that her paternal grandfather called people like her “phony,” almost nothing is made of the connection to Catcher in the Rye, and it serves merely to make Caggie’s tale suffer by comparison.

Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death and lies. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3316-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss.

RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE

It’s 1983, and 13-year-old Indian American Reha feels caught between two worlds.

Monday through Friday, she goes to a school where she stands out for not being White but where she has a weekday best friend, Rachel, and does English projects with potential crush Pete. On the weekends, she’s with her other best friend, Sunita (Sunny for short), at gatherings hosted by her Indian community. Reha feels frustrated that her parents refuse to acknowledge her Americanness and insist on raising her with Indian values and habits. Then, on the night of the middle school dance, her mother is admitted to the hospital, and Reha’s world is split in two again: this time, between hospital and home. Suddenly she must learn not just how to be both Indian and American, but also how to live with her mother’s leukemia diagnosis. The sections dealing with Reha’s immigrant identity rely on oft-told themes about the overprotectiveness of immigrant parents and lack the nuance found in later pages. Reha’s story of her evolving relationships with her parents, however, feels layered and real, and the scenes in which Reha must grapple with the possible loss of a parent are beautifully and sensitively rendered. The sophistication of the text makes it a valuable and thought-provoking read even for those older than the protagonist.

An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss. (Verse novel. 11-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304742-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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