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 BIG NOTHING

From the Neighborhood series , Vol. 3

Big brother Duane is off in boot camp, and Justin is left trying to hold the parental units together. Fat, acne-ridden, and missing his best friend Ben, who’s in the throes of his first boy-girl relationship with Cass, Justin’s world is dreary. It gets worse when he realizes that all of his mother’s suspicions about his father are probably true, and that Dad may not return from his latest business trip. Surprisingly ultra-cool Jemmie, who is also missing her best friend, Cass, actually recognizes his existence and her grandmother invites Justin to use their piano in the afternoons when Jemmie’s at cross-country practice. The “big nothing” place, where Justin retreats in time of trouble, is a rhythmic world and soon begins to include melody and provide Justin with a place to express himself. Practice and discipline accompany this gradual exploration of his talent. The impending war in Iraq gives this story a definite place in time, and its distinct characters make it satisfying and surprisingly realistic. Misfit finds fit. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-56145-326-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

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