Ever funny and clever, Erin tackles eighth grade. Her blog now truly private—preventing 2008’s Harriet the Spy–like reveal in Click Here (To Find Out How I Survived the Seventh Grade)—she tallies “Things That Rock,” “Things That Make Me Wonder,” “Top 5 First Period Nightmares” and boys worthy of the Hot-O-Meter. Crushes and couplings wax and wane; Erin IMs and ponders attraction’s inconstancy. Narrating in first-person prose, she recognizes her own solemn playfulness as she swears “I’m never washing my nose again” (after a cute boy taps it) or taunts her older brother with a tampon (wrapped, natch, but still horrifying to him). Beloved school custodian Mr. Foslowski, who sympathizes and provides Tootsie Pops, balances Erin’s strict parents (“They wouldn’t even let me go to just any PG-13 movie. Hello? PG-13? I’m thirteen?”). Experimenting with disobedience (skipped seatbelt; forbidden party) initiates some sorrows that are only partly Erin’s fault. Voice occasionally strains (calling her own breasts “my perky petes”?), and Vega unfortunately conflates poverty with smoking, lying and getting kicked out of school. However, Erin’s ups and downs are humanizing, entertaining and real. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-03448-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009


Easy to read and strong on sibling devotion, with frustratingly mixed messages about personal responsibility.

A boy works desperately to keep his sick little brother safe.

Twelve-year-old Timothy has a probation officer, a court-appointed psychologist, and a yearlong sentence of house arrest. He also has a 9-month-old brother who breathes through a trach tube that frequently clogs. Heavy oxygen tanks and a suction machine as loud as a jackhammer are their everyday equipment. Timothy’s crime: charging $1,445 on a stolen credit card for a month of baby Levi’s medicine, which his mother can’t afford, especially since his father left. The text shows illness, poverty, and hunger to be awful but barely acknowledges the role of, for example, weak health insurance, odd considering the nature of Timothy’s crime. The family has nursing help but not 24/7; the real house arrest in Timothy’s life isn’t a legal pronouncement, it’s the need to keep Levi breathing. Sometimes Timothy’s the only person home to do so. His court sentence requires keeping a journal; the premise that Holt’s straightforward free-verse poems are Timothy’s writing works well enough, though sometimes the verses read like immediate thoughts rather than post-event reflection. A sudden crisis at the climax forces Timothy into criminal action to save Levi’s life, but literally saving his brother from death doesn’t erase the whiff of textual indictment for lawbreaking. Even Mom equivocates, which readers may find grievously unjust.

Easy to read and strong on sibling devotion, with frustratingly mixed messages about personal responsibility. (Verse fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3477-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015


Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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