BREAKING THE RING

Though Jesse, 15, and her family have returned to summer on the St. Lawrence River after many years' absence, they quickly settle into familiar patterns. Then Jesse, with her younger sister Emma and best friend Maggie, locates a hidden stash of cocaine. They leave it alone, but their proximity to the hiding place is noted by members of a drug ring; when the cocaine is later missing, the girls, blamed by the smugglers, are thought to be in danger. Several coincidences later, the ring is ``broken,'' the girls safe. Characters, relationships, and the splendid setting are all wonderfully well realized in this first novel; unfortunately, the plot's intrigues and machinations are overabundant and the finale is rather flat. Atmospheric, if occasionally tiresome. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-316-41867-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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THE ZEE FILES

An enviable hero and appealing wish fulfillment that’s spiced with teen-friendship drama.

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When her family moves to London, an American teen adjusts to a new school in this middle-grade novel.

Previously, 12-year-old Mackenzie Blue Carmichael, called Zee, detailed her seventh grade escapades in the five-volume Mackenzie Blue series. Now a year older and in the eighth grade, the red-haired, blue-eyed, olive-skinned Zee faces a major life change because her father’s job is taking the family to London from Los Angeles. Besides leaving behind sunny skies for London fog, Zee must say goodbye to Chloe Lawrence-Johnson, her best friend from Brookdale Academy. Another big change is that Zee will be attending a boarding school, The Hollows Creative Arts Academy, in the Cotswolds. That’s a bit intimidating, but the school has some huge advantages, especially its focus on the arts. She can concentrate on her singing and songwriting while studying academic subjects. Plus, her Brookdale friend Ally Stern now lives in Paris, just two hours away. Despite her anxieties, Zee makes several friends quickly. Unexpectedly, she is taken into the charmed circle of Izzy Matthews, a popular YouTuber, and hits it off with the school’s hottest ninth grade boy, the posh Archibald “Archie” Saint John the Fourth, a fellow songwriter. But hurdles remain, such as staying in touch with Chloe across time zones. Ally, too, has been mysteriously distant, canceling a planned Paris rendezvous for unclear reasons. Wells (now writing with Smith) continues the Mackenzie Blue series under a new umbrella title. Transplanting Zee to England allows for a fresh array of challenges and adventures, and American readers will likely enjoy learning about cultural differences with Britain. (Some references are off target; for example, the name St. John isn’t spelled “Saint John.”) Zee has a lively voice that makes her sound like a friend any teen would like to have, although few readers will be able to relate to the characters’ wealthy lives. Teens own expensive, high-status items like Alexander McQueen sneakers, and their school is so far out of reach for most that it might as well be Hogwarts. These elements are certainly entertaining as an aspirational fantasy, though Zee’s troubles seem lightweight indeed among so much privilege. The fast-paced plot ends rather abruptly just as it feels as if Zee’s story is really getting started; the tale continues in Book 2. Jamison supplies monochrome illustrations that deftly convey the teens’ expressive emotions.

An enviable hero and appealing wish fulfillment that’s spiced with teen-friendship drama.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 167

Publisher: West Margin Press

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

THE CHOLO TREE

A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale.

Boxed in by societal prejudices, a young Chicano struggles to find his identity.

Split into two separate periods, Chacón’s insightful novel portrays the trials of Victor Reyes, a death metal–loving, artistic teen who’s seemingly ill-fated in life. In the book’s first half, 14-year-old Victor recovers from a shooting—he was dead for a hair over 2 minutes—that leaves him with a fuzzy memory. Almost everyone, including his mom, believes he’s a cholo, a gangbanger destined for trouble. Though Victor tries his best to mend his relationship with his mom, he frequently ends up in incriminating situations. Meanwhile, Victor meets and falls for a feisty part-Mexican, part-Indian girl. The story moves at a meandering pace, which Chacón uses to sketch in disjointed details. Victor’s first-person narration doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but each of the diverse supporting characters features a distinct, if stereotypical, voice to fill in that void. The novel’s second half focuses on 17-year-old Victor, a senior succeeding in school and love. A supportive teacher helps him refine his artistic goals, pushing him to apply for art school. But Victor’s anger and past won’t let him go, and soon he’s knee-deep in the cholo life. Overall, the author employs a well-worn redemption arc, and the often clunky, self-conscious narration doesn’t really help to make it feel fresh: “They looked sort of geeky cool, like journalism students, the kind of kids that YA novels are written about.”

A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55885-840-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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