Mystery, romance and insider music-industry detail distinguish this intriguing 1960s coming-of-age story.

I'M GLAD I DID

An aspiring songwriter accepts a summer job with a music publisher in 1963 New York City, where she learns about her family, her friends and herself.

Expected to become a lawyer like her mother, father and brother, 16-year-old strong-willed Justice Green, known as JJ, wants to write songs that will “make people believe in possibilities and dreams.” Hired by Good Music Publishing to perform office work in exchange for feedback on her songs, JJ finds herself in the heart of the music-publishing industry, where she encounters her estranged uncle Bernie, an infamous industry mogul who takes her under his wing. When JJ meets Luke Silver, son of Bernie’s deceased former partner, they begin collaborating on a song. After befriending a burned-out African-American singer named Dulcie Brown, JJ’s devastated when Dulcie dies under suspicious circumstances, prompting her to investigate Dulcie’s past. JJ narrates her story, allowing readers to share her shock when the troubling truth about the twisted relationship that connects Bernie, Luke’s father and Dulcie is finally revealed. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Weil, songwriter of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” provides period detail about the fledgling rock-’n’-roll industry that adds verisimilitude to JJ and Luke’s surprising journey of discovery.

Mystery, romance and insider music-industry detail distinguish this intriguing 1960s coming-of-age story. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61695-356-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery.

DISPLACEMENT

Time travel brings a girl closer to someone she’s never known.

Sixteen-year-old Kiku, who is Japanese and white, only knows bits and pieces of her family history. While on a trip with her mother to San Francisco from their Seattle home, they search for her grandmother’s childhood home. While waiting for her mother, who goes inside to explore the mall now standing there, a mysterious fog envelops Kiku and displaces her to a theater in the past where a girl is playing the violin. The gifted musician is Ernestina Teranishi, who Kiku later confirms is her late grandmother. To Kiku’s dismay, the fog continues to transport her, eventually dropping her down next door to Ernestina’s family in a World War II Japanese American internment camp. The clean illustrations in soothing browns and blues convey the characters’ intense emotions. Hughes takes inspiration from her own family’s story, deftly balancing complicated national history with explorations of cultural dislocation and biracial identity. As Kiku processes her experiences, Hughes draws parallels to President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the incarceration of migrant children. The emotional connection between Kiku and her grandmother is underdeveloped; despite their being neighbors, Ernestina appears briefly and feels elusive to both Kiku and readers up to the very end. Despite some loose ends, readers will gain insights to the Japanese American incarceration and feel called to activism.

A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery. (photographs, author’s note, glossary, further reading) (Graphic historical fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-19353-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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