Skip this uneven collection’s slighter offerings; its best are worth finding.

WELCOME HOME

This wide-ranging anthology features adoptees, foster-care veterans, trauma survivors, young birth mothers, adoptive parents, and those whose lives they touch.

Contemporary realism, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction: these 29 stories cover complicated territory. In adoption, happiness is inextricably bound to sorrow, even when birth parents put their child’s welfare ahead of their own, even when adoptee and adoptive parents form a loving bond. In Caela Carter’s luminous story, an African-American teen, a gifted student and athlete, must tell her beloved mother, whom she visits in prison, that her track coach and foster mother wants to adopt her; being gifted a life her mother couldn’t provide is a bitter joy. In Julie Leung’s “Ink Drips Black,” the bond connecting a Chinese grandmother and her American-adopted granddaughter, Stacy, is sacrifice. The high price paid for Stacy’s future is loss of family and culture. Elsewhere, a veteran of multiple placements dreads removal from the warm, welcoming foster family she’s bonded with; an adoptive family invites the young birth mother who made their family possible to remain part of it. Too many less-impressive stories offer a conventional outsider’s view of adoption—adoption by generous, loving parents as the happy ending to years of birthparent abuse or neglect. The best, however, reflect the bittersweet truths that adoptive families differ profoundly from biological ones and that coming to terms with these differences is a lifelong process.

Skip this uneven collection’s slighter offerings; its best are worth finding. (Short stories. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63583-004-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Although it may not satisfy as a novel, its characters will no doubt resonate with teen readers who share their struggles...

BETWEEN THE LINES

A new group of students join Mr. Ward’s poetry class in the companion novel to Bronx Masquerade (2003).

A group of black, white, Asian, and Latinx high school students in Mr. Ward’s class practice the art of poetry in preparation for a weekly open-mike reading each Friday. Through poetry, the students navigate their concerns and fears about themselves, their families, and their futures. As they prepare for the class’s culminating event—a poetry slam competition—the students bond and grow more comfortable revealing themselves through their poems. Each student’s story is introduced and explored in rotating first-person chapters. There’s brown (not black) Puerto Rican Darrian, an aspiring journalist who lost his mother to cancer; 16-year-old Jenesis, a blue-eyed, blonde, black girl who worries what will happen when she ages out of the foster-care system at 18; Chinese-American Li, who hides her love of poetry from her parents; African-American Marcel, whose father wasn’t the same when he returned home from prison; and several others. Unfortunately, the characters’ personal struggles remain largely static throughout the novel, and there’s no overarching plot or compelling conflict among them. Much of the dialogue feels forced and doesn’t ring true as the voices of present-day teens; aside from a few poignant moments, the students’ poetry tends to be heavy-handed.

Although it may not satisfy as a novel, its characters will no doubt resonate with teen readers who share their struggles and aspirations. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24688-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more