Despite a lack of gray area, these educational short stories make for appealing, quick reads.

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THERE'S A NAME FOR THIS FEELING / HAY UN NOMBRE PARA LO QUE SIENTO

In a series of short stories that integrate English and Spanish, characters face love, loss and hard decisions, while consequences follow closely behind.

A boy witnesses his friend’s death by a stray bullet and grows up to become a protective father. A teenager gives up his last few dollars to buy a disappointing firecracker. A young man discovers his beloved grandmother needs him more than he needs her. Bertrand offers characters that inhabit their lives with a predictability that younger readers will find reassuring and older readers may find frustrating. In these microworlds, people who behave badly are punished accordingly, and those who make positive decisions are rewarded. Bertrand’s characters are well-crafted and manage to suggest lives beyond the page, but the dichotomous nature of morality in her stories can be distracting for readers who, even at a young age, know this isn’t a reflection of the real world. The stories contain many natural occurrences of Spanish vocabulary, and the Spanish version of the entire collection appears later in the book. Study questions for readers supply another layer of educational content in a book that appears written with classrooms in mind.

Despite a lack of gray area, these educational short stories make for appealing, quick reads. (Short stories. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55885-784-1

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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