A suspenseful debut novel about the forces of greed and love that shape a refugee’s fate

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REFUGEE 87

After a family secret reveals that his freedom might be in danger, the life of Shif, a 14-year-old African boy who excels at school, takes an unexpected turn.

Shif needs to leave his home country (not named but probably Eritrea) to escape military service by being smuggled to Europe. But plans to escape are cut short, and he is rounded up with his best friend, Bini, to a prison where dissidents are often kept for life without trial. As the older inmates help the young boys plot an escape, Shif and Bini learn that their stories are not unique in a country where no one is allowed to criticize the government and there is always something someone could be punished for. Escaping the prison that’s in the middle of the desert comes at a huge price. When Shif arrives at a town where he does not know the language, he is thirsty, hungry, dirty, and almost dead. A door opens when he meets the family of Almaz, a young girl from his country, and finds out that they are on the run too, but new forms of danger loom en route to Europe via the desert and then the sea. Shif’s present-tense narration pins readers to his side throughout his ordeal. The publisher's suggested age range is 8 to 12, but the narrative feel, all-too-realistic violence, and relentless grimness of Shif’s circumstances suggest an older audience.

A suspenseful debut novel about the forces of greed and love that shape a refugee’s fate . (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-42303-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch.

RESISTANCE

A Jewish girl joins up with Polish resistance groups to fight for her people against the evils of the Holocaust.

Chaya Lindner is forcibly separated from her family when they are consigned to the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. The 16-year-old is taken in by the leaders of Akiva, a fledgling Jewish resistance group that offers her the opportunity to become a courier, using her fair coloring to pass for Polish and sneak into ghettos to smuggle in supplies and information. Chaya’s missions quickly become more dangerous, taking her on a perilous journey from a disastrous mission in Krakow to the ghastly ghetto of Lodz and eventually to Warsaw to aid the Jews there in their gathering uprising inside the walls of the ghetto. Through it all, she is partnered with a secretive young girl whom she is reluctant to trust. The trajectory of the narrative skews toward the sensational, highlighting moments of resistance via cinematic action sequences but not pausing to linger on the emotional toll of the Holocaust’s atrocities. Younger readers without sufficient historical knowledge may not appreciate the gravity of the events depicted. The principal characters lack depth, and their actions and the situations they find themselves in often require too much suspension of disbelief to pass for realism.

Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14847-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches.

QUEERFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

A GUIDE FOR LGBTQ+ CHRISTIAN TEENS

A must-read guide for all queer and questioning Christians (and their allies, too)!

Queer youth still face a multitude of challenges while growing up, and these have the potential to be amplified by religious beliefs. Addressing that issue head-on, this guide for Christians seeks to provide counsel, understanding, and gentle guidance across a series of 40-plus chapters that address everything from coming out in a variety of contexts, positive ways to deal with haters, and helping start the conversation about gender-neutral bathrooms at school, to living authentically. The book acknowledges that the advice is sometimes vague, but that’s because the spectrum of queer life is so broad. In this regard, the book excels by speaking to a range of genders and sexual identities; asexuals, nonbinary people, bisexuals, pansexuals, etc., are all addressed with respect and will find useful tips for navigating their early years. The book works better for hunt-and-peck readers as opposed to those reading from cover to cover because some of the information is repetitious, but that repetition may be necessary to counterbalance years of incorrect, inaccurate, or purposely hateful misinformation. The contributors to this fabulous read include mental health experts and religious leaders. Text boxes, pie charts, graphs, and grayscale illustrations support and enhance the main narrative.

A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches. (note on language, glossary, additional resources, sources) (Self-help. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Beaming Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort.

THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH

Tragedy hovers over a blossoming romance.

Brazilian-American Sebastian “Bash” Alvaréz is just trying to get by when he meets the nerdy, white Birdie Paxton. The two spark up some romantic fire, but disaster quickly strikes. Late one night, Bash and his ne’er-do-well pal “Wild” Kyle are driving erratically (Kyle is at the wheel) and slam right into Birdie’s baby brother, Benny. The boys flee the scene, while Benny slips into a coma and the town begins to hunt for the perpetrators of the hit-and-run. Bash keeps his secret from Birdie as they grow closer, and readers will roll their eyes at the excessive misery. The author gives Bash a dying mother to balance out the equation, but the choice overloads the devastation factor. With everything emotional and awful and crazy and turned up to 11, nothing really sticks out. The two moping, guilt-ridden protagonists are drawn well enough—they alternate narration—but seem to be stuck in a narrative hell bent on getting readers to cry. Secondary characters are poorly sketched, given no interior life, and merely activated to interact with Birdie and Bash. The novel’s end is disproportionately sunny and hopeful, giving readers tonal whiplash. A last-minute Hail Mary act gets the teens out of the narrative corner, but it feels spectacularly tacked-on.

A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11622-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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