A highly recommended work that’s thoughtful, funny, wise, and tender.

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Two chronically ill teens navigate the joys and pitfalls of a relationship in this YA contemporary romance.

Of all the places where 16-year-old Isabel Garfinkel could meet a cute boy, the Ambulatory Medical Unit at Linefield and West Memorial Hospital in the Queens borough of New York City, wouldn’t seem the most likely. It’s her second time in the “drip room,” as it’s called, where she gets monthly infusions to treat the rheumatoid arthritis that she’s had for 11 years. This time, though, she can’t help staring at a new patient there—a boy her age named Sasha Sverdlov-Deckler. She likes his quirky, appealing looks and wry sense of humor, and they bond over the fact that they’re both Jewish. Sasha has a rare genetic disorder called Gaucher disease, which isn’t fatal, in his case, but causes severe anemia, weak bones, and other problems. Although Isabel has several close and well-meaning friends, she doesn’t have anyone who really understands what it’s like “to deal with the everyday slog of being sick.” She and Sasha hit it off, but she’s emotionally guarded and dislikes risks, and as a result, she doesn’t date. Sasha is patient and sweet, and their romance grows; amid a few arguments and setbacks, they forge a bond that gets them through their problems. As the advice columnist for her high school paper, Isabel asks questions and gathers others’ responses; by the end of the novel, she’s comfortable with not having all the answers. Moskowitz (Salt, 2018, etc.) does a splendid job of showing what the world looks like to the chronically but invisibly ill. For example, Isabel is often tired and aching, and she fears the judgment of others; she notes that even her physician father would question her getting a cab to go 15 blocks, a walkable distance for many, including people who are old or pregnant and “people with arthritis who are just better than me.” Overall, the excellent character development lends depth and sweetness to the romance. Isabel’s relationship with Sasha helps her fight self-doubt and stand up for herself with laudable vigor, yet the novel never feels didactic.

A highly recommended work that’s thoughtful, funny, wise, and tender.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-732-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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