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A STRANGER CALLS ME HOME

The author of Flight of the Albatross (1989) returns to New Zealand for another tale contrasting Anglo and Maori ways and involving young people seeking self-definition. Paul, after four years in America and contact with an activist uncle who once marched with Martin Luther King, is already observing racial divisions in New Zealand with a disenchanted eye when he strikes up a friendship with Simon—who was raised by his white mother and adoptive father but has just realized that strangers see him as Maori, like his birth father. The two go to a seaside area where they meet Fiona, Paul's second cousin, still living on land their ancestor wrested from the Maoris, and also her Maori friends—who, it turns out, still hope to regain the land where Fiona dreams of training horses: it is their tapu burial ground. Meanwhile, Simon begins to realize that his father's origins were also here, and both boys are attracted to the brittle, driven Fiona. In addition to this incompletely developed triangle and the mystery concerning Simon's father, there's a fair amount of melodrama to hold interest here, culminating in a fire that helps resolve both the land question and an old trauma troubling Fiona. At times, it all seems a bit overblown; yet Savage writes vividly and smoothly, entwining her themes with care and intelligence while alternating among her protagonists' points of view. An entertaining story with some depth. (Fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-395-59424-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

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 Boyne’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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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