CRUSADER

A stagnant shopping mall in South Florida is a crowded center stage for this large-canvas story from Bloor (Tangerine, 1997), who weaves labyrinthine plot strands, from politics and the power of the media to alienation and personal redemption, while an exploration of racism hovers in the background. Smart, Seuss-spouting Roberta, 15, is capable and knowing beyond her years, raising herself on boxes of macaroni, neglected by a father whose presence is primarily the stack of rented videos he leaves for her on the counter. Her only family is the drunken uncle (in fact, most of the adults are bad guys, drunks, liars—even murderers) she works for at the failing virtual reality video arcade, and his troubled children. As the story unfolds, remarkably resilient Roberta comes closer to solving the riddle of her mother’s murder seven years ago; the solution hits close to home, and is only one among plot strands vying for attention as Roberta schools herself to become a reporter, conducts her own surveillance of local hate crimes, faces the death of a friend and an elderly guardian, saves the mall from bankruptcy, and inherits a Hallmark store. Roberta’s transformation from androgenous geek to self-sufficient, truth-seeking heroine is believable throughout, and, despite an overdose of detail, readers will be patient with a cast of characters for whom a bout of chicken pox is revelatory and a near-death in a freezer is life-affirming. Roberta emerges from her war a contemporary crusader, strong and whole and sure. (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201944-8

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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DEATH ON SACRED GROUND

An interesting but not always successful mix of Jewish and Iroquois/Seneca tradition, custom, and lore form the backdrop for this mystery set in upstate New York. Tenth-grader Aviva “Vivi” Hartman has come with her rabbi father from Buffalo to a small town so that Rabbi Hartman can conduct the funeral of a Jewish high-school girl found dead on sacred Indian ground. It becomes clear before long, however, that the victim, allegedly killed in an accident while on an archery-club outing, was murdered. Vivi passes the time while in town working on a project for a social-studies class back at her own school: following a student around and taking notes about her life and activities. When that student experiences a near-brush with death, Vivi becomes convinced that the girl is the target of a killer trying to hush her up. Did this girl, the school photographer who accompanied the archery club, capture the murder on film? Vivi puts her knowledge of pilpul—the ancient Jewish system of logic used to decipher passages of the Torah—to work and sets about solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the long-simmering relations between a group of white students and some of the Senecas threaten to burst, with members of each group accusing the other of murder and bringing to the fore some lurid details about the victim's and the accused murderer's lives. Feder interweaves details of Jewish and Seneca traditions and ceremonies and is knowledgeable about and respectful of both groups, and the solutions to the murder and another mystery are unexpected, though not entirely plausible. Confirmed mystery readers will probably take to this one, but it's nothing special; characterizations are superficial and the writing is, for the most part, awkward. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8225-0741-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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WHAT JANIE FOUND

From the Janie series , Vol. 4

Billed as the conclusion to the saga that began with The Face on the Milk Carton (1990), this soapy drama ends with some wounds healed, but the characters and plot lines suspended in thin Rocky Mountain air. Raised by a Connecticut couple who believed themselves to be her grandparents, but were actually the mother and father of Hannah, her kidnapper, Janie has rejoined and subsequently relinquished her birth family to live with those who raised her. Now, as her “father” lies in intensive care, Janie discovers that he not only knows where Hannah is, but has been sending her money regularly from a special account. Hannah lives in Boulder, Colorado, where Janie’s older brother, Stephen, is going to school and falling hard for domineering Kathleen; Janie flies out for a visit, determined to confront Hannah, and get answers about her past. The characters have sharp intelligence and strong, complex feelings, but, despite staccato prose and frequent shifts in point-of-view, the plot lags, stretched out to give everyone a chance to wrestle with private demons. In what passes for a climax Stephen and Kathleen move apart, Janie and formerly disgraced boyfriend Reeve narrow the rift between them, and Janie decides to “unkidnap” herself by mailing Hannah the balance of the special account, without making direct contact. Readers may appreciate her wisdom, but as Hannah remains a faceless, voiceless enigma, there is no closure to the central mystery of the four- book drama. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32611-4

Page Count: 189

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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