DUNK

Lubar’s (Hidden Talents, 1999, etc.) latest is somewhat weaker than the sum of its parts. The characters are strong, the setting is interesting enough, but somehow the plot just does not ring true. Chad lives on the Jersey shore, an odd place to live, especially in the off season. Chad and his single mother try to scrape together enough money to pay the mortgage, she by working and renting their second floor to boarders, Chad by scamming side jobs on the boardwalk. When Malcolm, a college professor with a unique summer job, becomes their new tenant, Chad’s summer is irrevocably changed. Malcolm works as a “Bozo” at the dunk tank, the smart-mouthed jokester who jeers passers-by into spending their money to dunk him. Chad is so taken by Malcolm’s ability to come up with the perfect wisecrack every time that he vows to study him and become a Bozo himself. Added to this unlikely career choice is Chad’s struggle to work up the courage to talk to his dream girl, the collapse of his best friend due to a rare autoimmune disease, and Malcolm’s slow revelations about his past that led him to this vocation. Chad is an appealing enough teen, nice to his mother, hangs out with his friends, worries about his social life, yet somehow is just not likable enough. Lubar seems to throw in a lot of filler—Chad’s friend’s disease, his struggles to talk to a girl he likes—which doesn’t necessarily add to the story. One substantial plot device involves Malcolm introducing Chad to classics in humor (the Marx brothers, Charlie Chaplin) and discussing how laughter and humor can be healing. Chad uses this idea to help his friend feel better as they await news of his disease, but these parts are few and far between. Not a bad effort, just not quite there. Will appeal to junior-high boys who aren’t looking for a challenging read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-19455-X

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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