UNDER A DIFFERENT SKY

In this badly written novel from Savage (A Stranger Calls Me Home, 1992, etc.), characters frequently reveal their attempts at ``art''- -dressage, painting, photography—to others, along with a string of clichÇs about the costs of following their hearts (or not) to fulfillment. Ben's mother can barely make ends meet as a cashier; his dreamer father's business schemes always fail; drunken older brother Tom has just lost his job. During these hard times the family relies on the rent the adjacent boarding school pays to use some farm land. Ben, 17, is torn between his mother's need for stability and his father's starry- eyed encouragement. He doesn't know whether to risk time, money, and energy on his secret dream of becoming a dressage champion, or to sell his beloved horse, Galaxy, for the family good and take a job in an auto repair shop. The novel takes a melodramatic turn when Ben meets Lara, a wealthy but troubled student at the boarding school, who is alienated from her adoptive family. After pages and pages of angry, then tender exchanges, Ben and Lara fall in love. Hackneyed elements make this story long and tired: The mystical bond between Galaxy and Ben (rendered in purple prose); a greedy school administration; Lara's bad-girl tantrums; her wealthy, uncaring parents. A pedestrian plot, dearth of credible adults, hysterical tone, and obvious themes make this novel unbelievable at its best and exhausting at its worst. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-77395-4

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1997

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SMILE

Telgemeier has created an utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work. One night, Raina trips and falls after a Girl Scout meeting, knocking out her two front teeth. This leads to years of painful surgeries, braces, agonizing root canals and other oral atrocities. Her friends offer little solace through this trying ordeal, spending more of their time teasing than comforting her. After years of these girls’ constant belittling, Raina branches out and finds her own voice and a new group of friends. Young girls will relate to her story, and her friend-angst is palpable. Readers should not overlook this seemingly simply drawn work; the strong writing and emotionally expressive characters add an unexpected layer of depth. As an afterword, the author includes a photo of her smiling, showing off the results of all of the years of pain she endured. Irresistible, funny and touching—a must read for all teenage girls, whether en-braced or not. (Graphic memoir. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-13205-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bantam Discovery

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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