THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

Uneven but engrossing tale about Bridget, 14, who— suspecting that her father wishes he had never adopted her— suddenly finds her birth parents' old house. Bridget is furious: Daddy has bundled off the family, including nonspeaking little brother Morgan, to summer in northern New Hampshire instead of on their usual Maine island, largely at the suggestion of new nanny Ingrid, who is maddeningly insistent on reminding Bridget that she's overweight and adopted. There, in a mysterious old house, Bridget finds clues that will eventually lead her to her birth parents' name and the sad reason that she was given up. She also meets Elissa, an understanding artist who offers an acceptance that Bridget and Morgan haven't found at home and who acts as a catalyst for several changes, including a confrontation that finally causes Morgan to speak and Bridget to ask for a chance to meet her natural father. Beginning with Daddy's choice of the New Hampshire location, there are too many contrivances and unanswered questions here. Elissa's past is unnecessarily mysterious, and it's not clear why Morgan doesn't speak; moreover, his big moment is trampled over by Bridget's argument with her father. Also, Bridget's overwrought sensitivity about her looks and manners becomes tiresome. Still, her concerns are shared by many youngsters, the situation is inherently dramatic, and Holland writes with skill enough that the reader really does care what happens. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-316-37178-5

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

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.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

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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