ACCESS DENIED

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more