Reinhardt’s skillful exploration of the dynamics of sibling relationships and truly inventive narrative structure shine a...

WE ARE THE GOLDENS

Nell’s discovery of her sister’s secret tests the powerful emotional bond between them.

When Nell starts high school in San Francisco, she plans to follow in the footsteps of her near-perfect sister Layla, whom she loves with a devotion that approaches adulation. Up till now their lives have been intertwined, particularly since their parents’ divorce, but Layla is becoming distant. At first, Nell brushes off rumors that Layla’s in an inappropriate relationship with City Day’s young art teacher, but Layla’s secretive behavior can’t help but attract suspicion. In a blend of first- and second-person, past- and present-tense narration, Nell addresses her sister directly, spilling out her thoughts as she prepares to confront Layla and bring the secret out into the open. Nell’s inner dialogue with two boys, brothers who died within a year of each other, is convincing as a framework for Nell to process the truth, while her best friend, Felix, provides real-life emotional support. Along the way, readers are kept in suspense about Layla’s whereabouts, although the ending is somewhat anticlimactic. In the end, the story feels rather ordinary—as so much of life is.

Reinhardt’s skillful exploration of the dynamics of sibling relationships and truly inventive narrative structure shine a light on the ordinary struggle of growing up. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74257-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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

NEVER FALL DOWN

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 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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