First published in Germany following the Chernobyl disaster, this tale of a teenager robbed of her childhood by a nuclear accident comes down hard on the human tendency to deny reality. Acting on garbled reports of an accident at the nearby Grafenrheinfeld power plant, Janna, 14, snatches her small brother Uli and joins what becomes a panic-stricken flight out of town. Separated from her parents and the rest of her family, she sees Uli run down by a reckless motorist, then wanders in shock through deadly wind and rain, before being taken to a temporary hospital. There she stays, losing her hair and some weight, until she is judged well enough to be released into the care of an aunt. Janna has become a ``hibakusha'' (a Japanese term applied to Hiroshima survivors), a statistic and social problem, regarded with both pity and fear. As she sees those around her shifting responsibility for the incident and stubbornly clinging to an illusion of normality, her numbness turns to anger. By the end, she has become a witness, her hairlessness a badge of defiance. Pausewang writes with some passion, although the stilted translation and unfamiliar place names—not to mention a bleak view of human nature—may distance some readers from the tragedy she describes. Karen Hesse's Phoenix Rising (1994) explores similar moral issues more convincingly. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-86104-9

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.


After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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