A memoir about starting a rock band in the middle of a war zone. Drafted into the Vietnam War, Kohler served in a small port town, enforcing the law as part of his military service. Under orders from his commanding officer, the young MP formed “Electrical Banana” with a few fellow draftees and enjoyed a wildly popular run of gigs, including a performance on the front lines, before returning home to restart his music career. With its focus on overcoming adversity and creating positive situations, the narrative could devolve into a blathering self-help book, but Kohler and co-author VanHecke avoid that trap entirely. Reluctant readers will find plenty of action and suspense in the war scenes, while those who are musically inclined will appreciate the trials of starting a band, no matter what the circumstances. Brief sidelines regarding both the motivations for and the difficulties of the war emerge, but it does not overtake the plot, and Kohler avoids getting bogged down in the politics. Humorous and light, with a hint of despair, the narrative depicts life continuing beyond conflict. (Memoir. YA)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-124255-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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A well-intentioned project whose earnest messages of empathy and equality fall short in execution.


A timely, speculative thought experiment in perspective, privilege, and identity.

Ash Bowman is a White, heterosexual boy who doesn’t think too deeply about the plights of others. That is, until a jarring football injury shifts him into a parallel universe. At first, the changes to Ash’s world are small: Stop signs are blue, not red, for example. Then, with every tackle, Ash transports himself into a new reality, and the changes become much more pronounced. Characters change gender, social class status, sexuality, or even live in a world where racial segregation still exists. These changes in perspective prompt Ash to cultivate a greater sense of empathy and urgency regarding the suffering of others. But as reality becomes increasingly unstable, he must set the world back to rights. Ash is a clever, sincere narrator, and his journey of self-discovery is well-paced with solid twists at nearly every chapter’s end. But the project ultimately attempts to tackle too much, covering abuse, racism, homophobia, misogyny, class privilege, and more; this leads to little time and nuance dedicated to each. Unlike in real life, characters typically possess a single marginalized identity, and the interplay between struggles for progress in different areas is not explored, oversimplifying matters. The joys of queer love are shown, but experiences of being female or Black are largely presented in terms of oppression. Additionally, characters from marginalized populations are generally used for Ash’s own character development.

A well-intentioned project whose earnest messages of empathy and equality fall short in execution. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-199867-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Romance and quantum physics intertwine in this frothy introduction to multiverse SF.


What if memories could be transplanted along with a heart?

Before Bay Area 17-year-old Chloe collapsed while running and learned about her congenital heart defect, she was a competitive senior with her eyes set on college. Life post–heart transplant is completely different, and Chloe can’t seem to connect to her old life. Inexplicably drawn to taking up surfing, she finds herself falling for Kai, her enigmatic surf instructor. But she can’t ignore the constant, haunting nightmares and surreal, fragmented memories that inexplicably bombard her. A lifelong fan of science, and especially multiverse theories, Chloe finds herself hoping that cellular memory, the ability to store memories in cells outside the brain, is true. Because she’s almost 100% sure her anonymous heart donor gave her more than just an oxygen-pumping organ. What begins as a predictable rom-com veers into alternate/parallel universe science fiction, with each layer casting more doubt on Chloe’s reliability as a narrator. A slow start with repetitive exposition gives way to a page-turning finale. SF newbies may find the conclusion thought-provoking even if the puzzle pieces of Chloe and Kai’s relationship don’t always quite click into place. Chloe is White and Kai, who is from Hawaii, is biracial (Japanese/White).

Romance and quantum physics intertwine in this frothy introduction to multiverse SF. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0776-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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