Hard-hitting (if a little heavily reliant on suspension of belief) and as memorable as a prison tour for young men who think...

BETTING GAME

From the Orca Sports series

O’Connor tackles a tough one: a high school soccer star caught in a web of gambling.

Jack and his brother, Alex, attend a soccer academy, the kind of institution that grooms students for professional-level play. Their team is a contender for the national championship, but they have just lost their best player to the professional leagues, and a new ringer isn’t fitting in with the team. O’Connor will keep the game’s fans close with plenty of in-the-know soccer patter, but she will also draw other readers with the story of Jack’s slow absorption into a gambling ring. Luka, a flashy Ukrainian with money to burn (a casting choice that falls perilously close to prejudicial stereotyping), befriends Jack, greasing the relationship with some valuable gifts. Readers may find it hard to believe that Jack doesn’t realize every word he drops in Luka’s ear about his senior-division team—who is hurting, who is away for a game—is fodder for Luka’s gambling operation. But Jack does know all about the operation, especially how easy it is to go into debt when the interest is compounded. Jack, Alex, and an unexpected compatriot set up a sting, but not before Luka makes some grisly threats.

Hard-hitting (if a little heavily reliant on suspension of belief) and as memorable as a prison tour for young men who think crime is a sport and a joke. (Sports fiction. 10-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0930-7

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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