Readers will not soon forget either Joseph Brook or this spare novel written with love and grace.

READ REVIEW

ORBITING JUPITER

Jackson Hurd’s family has taken in a new foster child, and Jackson will have to find the meanings of love and loyalty as he befriends his foster brother.

Joseph Brook looks like an average eighth-grader at Eastham Middle School, but he’s not. He became a father at age 13, spent time in juvie, and has an abusive father. Living with Jack’s family on their Maine farm could mean a normal life for him, but he is obsessed with finding Jupiter, the daughter he’s not allowed to see. He finds love within Jack’s family and support from some teachers at school—including Coach Swieteck, whom some readers might remember from Okay for Now (2011)—who appreciate his skills in math and gymnastics, but one teacher warns Jack of Joseph’s bad influence, and other students call Joseph “Psycho.” Schmidt writes with an elegant simplicity in this paean to the power of love. But there’s a snake in the garden—Joseph’s father—and it is the uncoiling of fate, rooted in the tale from the beginning, that leads to the novel’s devastating conclusion.

Readers will not soon forget either Joseph Brook or this spare novel written with love and grace. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-462229

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced.

THE ALWAYS WAR

For the past 75 years, Tessa’s nation has been at war—a war that has no end in sight.

Tessa lives in a community of weary people, visibly crushed by endless years of combat. They are numb; war is commonplace. But when a local boy receives an award for bravery—the nation’s highest—it lifts the city. Everyone, especially Tessa, desperately needs a hero. But Gideon shocks the town by refusing the honor. He declares himself a coward and runs away. He has killed more than 1,000 people; there is no honor in that. But that’s what war is, isn’t it? Killing the enemy is necessary. Gideon infuriates Tessa, but she is inexplicably curious as well. She follows him and ends up on a plane, with Gideon steering it straight toward the enemy line. He hopes to apologize, to atone for his mistakes, but what he and Tessa (along with a stowaway orphan named Dek) find when they open the plane’s door changes the plan dramatically. This dystopian drama examines the human aspect of war, and also how technology may redefine war in the future. In line with that tension, it is difficult to pinpoint which character grows the most in the narrative—Tessa or the computer.

If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced. (Dystopia. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9526-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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