A thrilling war tale well-suited to a YA audience.

OPERATION ARCHANGEL

1940, SOUTHERN ENGLAND, AND SIX BOY SCOUTS ARE WILLING TO RISK ALL FOR KING AND COUNTRY...

From the Scouts of St. Michael series , Vol. 1

In 1940, a tightknit group of British orphans embarks on a mission to infiltrate Hitler Youth squads. 

In this debut novel, six orphans—ranging in age from 11 to 16—grow up together in southeast England at the St. Michael’s Church and Home for Boys. They pine to become British Boy Scouts—especially Reggie, the eldest—but the local chapter haughtily rejects their applications. Sister Noreen, who has a background in “Scout craft,” encourages them to start their own chapter—they call themselves the “Scouts of St. Michael”—and they contribute to the war effort, helping the church prepare for the inevitable wave of bombings. When German fighter planes arrive, the boys realize the newly installed anti-aircraft gun is left unmanned, and Reggie and Freddie (the second oldest at 15) boldly take the initiative, shoot one down, and capture a notorious Nazi pilot. The Scouts win national recognition for their heroics, but that attention also spawns an extraordinary assignment, code-named Operation Archangel—they’re asked to disguise themselves as Hitler Youth and capture its sadistic leader, Thomas Peter Heydrich. Morales artfully presents the decidedly implausible—the Scouts don’t speak any German when the mission is first conceived—as tantalizingly possible. The plot crackles with high adventure and briskly paced action, and the Scouts are as resourceful as they are brave—the work reads like a Hardy Boys novel combined with historical fiction. The author’s writing is both accessible and buoyant, and sometimes achingly touching. When one of the nuns discovers that the boys are being sent to war along with the new curate (a former intelligence operative), she’s overcome with emotion: “On that she gasped and began to sob. He went to her and lifted her from the chair. Hugging her was all he could think to do. She was trembling with each sob. ‘Oh, Jim. Please tell me this isn’t true.’ ” But the story’s ending is so abrupt and inconclusive, readers can only assume (and hope) it was composed with a sequel in mind. 

A thrilling war tale well-suited to a YA audience. 

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943492-36-7

Page Count: 356

Publisher: ELM Grove Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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