A unique voice emerges from an unlikely heroine in this quickly paced coming-of-age story.

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Angel Rock Leap

What at first appears to be an overblown high school drama proves to be an astute look at the painful connection between low self-esteem and bullying.

After her professors encourage her to quit her undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical science, 19-year-old Sarah returns to her hometown of Palenville, New York, where bad memories and old rivalries await her. While she is certainly not the first college student to have picked the wrong major, Sarah quickly succumbs to melancholy as she replaces her dream of curing the illnesses that took her parents with desperate fantasies of winning over the old classmates who once rejected her. The narrative is interspersed with flashbacks from school and Sarah’s short stories and poems, which are unfortunately too similar to each other to firmly establish Sarah as the budding writer that she hopes to be now that her pharmaceutical career is over. But authors Weisberg (Making Emmie Smile, 2012, etc.) and Yoffe develop Sarah’s obsession with the initially bland high school bully, Pamela, with great skill. Pamela, now a waitress, barely remembers Sarah’s name when she takes her order at a diner, but Sarah persistently picks at the scab of their rivalry until the truth about Pamela and Sarah’s ex-boyfriend Gary, as well as her long-lost childhood sweetheart, Doug, bleeds out. The French doors of Sarah’s dilapidated apartment also create an unsettling, almost gothic, backdrop for emotional turmoil when a creepy man from Sarah’s past turns up on her doorstep. Too pushy to take no for an answer, Sarah’s stalker forces her to resolve her victim mentality and defend herself—until he reveals a secret that changes the way she sees him. While the other characters seem to have given up on life before their time, Sarah’s best friend, Scott, balances their negativity with quirky observations and good cheer: “You can’t live without passion. It might get cooled from time to time, but it’s always there. Just waiting to be reheated. Waiting to be revived. Waiting to chase after dreams.”

A unique voice emerges from an unlikely heroine in this quickly paced coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943849-87-1

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Waldorf Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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