From Conford (The Frog Princess of Pelham, p. 638, etc.), a mediocre collection of stories about dating. Characterization is paper-thin in most stories: Amy and her boyfriend Batso, whose distinguishing characteristics are that they are devoted to each other; the unfortunately designated ``Princess Di,'' who uses up boys ``like Kleenex''; and Linda, who is a fraud and a liar. ``The Gift of the Mangy,'' attempting to echo O. Henry, features two shallow kids who make sacrifices (she clips her nails, he gets a haircut) before trading gifts (a manicure kit for her, a hairdryer for him); in ``Have a Heart,'' Linda creates fraudulent charities and raffles before getting her comeuppance. When some girls decide to boost Robert's confidence in ``Metamorphosis,'' he becomes unbearably suave and licentious; for B.J., making a wish for a date in ``Two Coins in a Fountain'' is more complicated than she can predict. Conford's glibness comes through in observations that don't always match their teenage protagonists' sensibilities—``his build was slim to none''—but the real trouble is the book's stubborn lack of substance. Each piece is more of a one-joke concept than a fully rendered story, and doesn't even qualify as brain candy. (Short stories. 12-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-025414-9

Page Count: 141

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1997

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Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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