An unusual work of magical realism. (Fiction. 12-16)

THE GIRL AND THE GROVE

An adopted teen hears voices on the wind that beckon her to an abandoned grove in a nearby park where she learns unimaginable secrets about her origins.

Leila, a brown-skinned high schooler with thick, curly hair and seasonal affective disorder, has an unusual connection to nature. She doesn’t know who her birth parents are or where they were from, but after years in a group home and foster homes around Philadelphia, she has found a permanent family with Jon, whose race is not mentioned, and Lisabeth, who is cued as black. Leila struggles to open herself up to her new parents. Sarika, a South Asian–American girl she befriended in the group home, is the only one who knows that Leila hears voices, which she fights to suppress. Through her passion for the environment, Leila meets a cute park ranger who helps her find the grove of trees that becomes the most important environmental cause she’s ever had to fight for. Readers will feel for Leila; her emotions around her family history are raw and real. The secondary characters are less convincing, and the fantastical aspect of Leila’s connection to nature may leave some readers confused about seasonal affective disorder.

An unusual work of magical realism. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63583-018-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Fast-moving and intriguing though inconsistent on multiple fronts.

NYXIA

From the Nyxia Triad series , Vol. 1

Kids endure rigorous competition aboard a spaceship.

When Babel Communications invites 10 teens to participate in “the most serious space exploration known to mankind,” Emmett signs on. Surely it’s the jackpot: they’ll each receive $50,000 every month for life, and Emmett’s mother will get a kidney transplant, otherwise impossible for poor people. They head through space toward the planet Eden, where they’ll mine a substance called nyxia, “the new black gold.” En route, the corporation forces them into brutal competition with one another—fighting, running through violent virtual reality racecourses, and manipulating nyxia, which can become almost anything. It even forms language-translating facemasks, allowing Emmett, a black boy from Detroit, to communicate with competitors from other countries. Emmett's initial understanding of his own blackness may throw readers off, but a black protagonist in outer space is welcome. Awkward moments in the smattering of black vernacular are rare. Textual descriptions can be scanty; however, copious action and a reality TV atmosphere (the scoreboard shows regularly) make the pace flow. Emmett’s first-person voice is immediate and innocent: he realizes that Babel’s ruthless and coldblooded but doesn’t apply that to his understanding of what’s really going on. Readers will guess more than he does, though most confirmation waits for the next installment—this ends on a cliffhanger.

Fast-moving and intriguing though inconsistent on multiple fronts. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55679-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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