A DOOR NEAR HERE

An overstuffed page-turner, both melodramatic and absorbing, with a tried-and-true premise: a sibling’s struggle to keep her family together despite overwhelming parental neglect. Katherine, 15, living on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is desperate to keep her sister Tracey, brother Douglas, and half- sister Alisa, fed, clothed, and in school. Her father is far away, with his new family; her mother has been in a bedridden, alcoholic stupor for weeks. Even small tragedies—an overflowing sink or a sulky heating system—can completely consume the family, already coping with emotional burdens. Katherine fears the entrance of social services and the possible break-up of her family so deeply that she tells wild lies to teachers, especially to Mr. Dodgson, who seems to be trying to help her. His efforts, and hers to dodge them, combine for an explosive climax; the brief epilogue is abrupt by comparison. Alisa’s search for Aslan, the lion king of Narnia (hence the title), and the three older siblings’ addiction to cigarettes do not always cleave to or move along the plotline; instead, in her first novel, Quarles’s strength is in conveying how it feels to be hungry, tired, and dirty, while attempting to keep up appearances. The characters in this novel are deeply flawed, yet readers will want to know, to the last paragraph, what happens to them. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32595-9

Page Count: 231

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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