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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

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

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE

A young teen whose world is filled with colors and shapes that no one else sees copes with the universal and competing drives to be unique and to be utterly and totally normal. Thirteen-year-old Mia is a synesthete: her brain connects her visual and auditory systems so that when she hears, or thinks about, sounds and words, they carry with them associated colors and shapes that fill the air about her. This is a boon in many ways—she excels in history because she can remember dates by their colors—and a curse. Ever since she realized her difference, she has concealed her ability, until algebra defeats her: “Normally an x is a shiny maroon color, like a ripe cherry. But here an x has to stand for an unknown number. But I can’t make myself assign the x any other color than maroon, and there are no maroon-colored numbers. . . . I’m lost in shades of gray and want to scream in frustration.” When Mia learns that she is not alone, she begins to explore the lore and community of synesthesia, a process that disrupts her relationships with her family, friends, and even herself. In her fiction debut for children, Mass has created a memorable protagonist whose colors enhance but do not define her dreamily artistic character. The present-tense narration lends immediacy and impact to Mia’s color perceptions: “Each high-pitched meow sends Sunkist-orange coils dancing in front of me. . . . ” The narrative, however, is rather overfull of details—a crazily built house, highly idiosyncratic family members, two boy interests, a beloved sick cat—which tend to compete for the reader’s attention in much the same way as Mia’s colors. This flaw (not unusual with first novels) aside, here is a quietly unusual and promising offering. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-316-52388-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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