THE GARDEN

This fleshy retelling of the Garden of Eden story, told from Eve’s perspective, includes an abusively arrogant God and a color-changing Serpent representing wisdom. Eve awakens into consciousness one day with the Serpent coiled around her body. It raises her and lives with her. The deathless, non-carnivorous Garden is lush with fruit and flowers; Eve’s happy until God forces Adam to rape her. Towards her recovery, the Serpent helps her travel secretly outside the Garden, seeing parts of nature that have grown beyond God’s control. Her mind, too, grows beyond God’s insistence that “it’s not good for you to think!” It may trouble readers (though it doesn’t trouble Eve) when the teacher/mentor Serpent becomes her lover. Caught between novel and allegory, this will challenge those who’ve never questioned biblical values, but it lacks the sparkle of Julius Lester’s When the Beginning Began (1999) (author’s note) (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-055605-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition.

THE POETRY OF SECRETS

In Trujillo, in the Spanish Kingdom of Castile in 1481, Isabel is a Crypto-Jew; she and her family maintain their Jewish faith in secret.

The Inquisition is gaining control, but 16-year-old Isabel, who has a passion for writing poetry, thinks that as New Christians her family is safe. The family converted to Christianity and were baptized in the hope of making their lives easier and more secure. However, like many other Jews in Spain at the time, they privately practice Judaism—attending church on Sundays but conducting Shabbat dinners every Friday night. They think their secret is safe, but the head Inquisitor, Fray Tomás Torquemada, is now targeting conversos for their private Judaizing. When Isabel is betrothed against her will to the powerful and ruthless alguacil, or sheriff, Don Sancho, Isabel’s parents believe that the upcoming marriage will save them from persecution. But when handsome aristocrat Diego warns Isabel that she is in grave danger from the Inquisition and especially from her husband-to-be, Isabel is determined to save her family, herself, and the man she loves—and live an openly Jewish life filled with poetry. This historical romance is a fast-paced, plot-driven tale with feminist main characters whom readers will root for from the very beginning.

A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. (author’s note, photos, research notes, poetry citations, further reading) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-63418-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Great worldbuilding but not entirely satisfying.

STAR DAUGHTER

When half-star/half-human Sheetal Mistry accidently injures her father, she needs to ascend to Svargalok, the abode of the stars, to find him a cure.

Just shy of 17, Sheetal has brown skin like her human father, Gautam, and silver hair like her star mother, Charumati, but she has never truly known what it means to be a star. Her human, Gujarati family in New Jersey insists she hide her star heredity, as stars were once hunted by mortals for their silver blood, which has healing properties. As a result, Sheetal knows very little of her ancestry or what she is truly capable of. Following the accident that puts her father in the hospital, Sheetal and her best friend, Minal, go in search of Charumati for a drop of star’s blood to cure her father. Unfortunately for her, Nana and Nani—the Esteemed Patriarch and Matriarch of their constellation, Pushya, and Sheetal’s maternal grandparents—agree to save her father only if she wins a competition that will allow their family to rule over the other constellations. Loosely inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Stardust (1997) and Hindu mythology, Thakrar’s debut covers the lives of stars, an unnecessarily complicated romance, and a half-star’s journey toward self-discovery. Refreshingly, all the characters are Indian or of Indian origin. Despite the fascinating premise, however, several characters lack the luster and conviction which would have otherwise added much-needed depth and heart to the novel.

Great worldbuilding but not entirely satisfying.  (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289462-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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