An exercise in reading frustration.

HALF MY FACEBOOK FRIENDS ARE FERRETS

Sixteen-year-old metal head Josh Walker whines his way through life.

Seemingly told through writings in a leather-bound journal given to him by his mother, the book follows Josh as he strives to achieve several goals before his 17th birthday. These goals range from kissing a girl to owning a Randy Rhoads Flying V Jackson guitar. It’s a shame that “gaining a larger sense of perspective” isn’t on the list. Despite presenting a list of objectives, the actual narrative is limp and shapeless. Josh is infuriatingly self-involved, so much so that the first-person perspective thwarts reader engagement. Everyone else in his life is interesting and dynamic and has other things going on, but Josh’s lack of concern for those around him makes it impossible for readers to glean anything beyond minor glimpses into a world with far more involving characters. Instead they get a novel filled with pointless teen grumblings and awkward sexual frustration. Most offensive is the novel’s denouement, which grants this shallow teen’s wishes for material things. Josh gets everything he wanted, and none of it is earned, just falling into his lap for no reason. Josh doesn’t become a better son, brother or friend, which makes the entire enterprise feel pointless.

An exercise in reading frustration. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-63079-000-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Switch/Capstone

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A wartime drama with enough depth and psychological complexity to satisfy budding bookworms.

A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON

Three plucky orphan siblings are in search of a mother in wartime England.

When their grandmother dies, 12-year-old William, 11-year-old Edmund, and 9-year-old Anna are left in London in the care of an elderly housekeeper. As part of the World War II evacuation of children to safety, they are relocated to the countryside, something the family solicitor hopes may lead to finding adoptive parents. However, they are billeted with the Forresters, an unpleasant family reminiscent of the Dursleys. Bullying by their hosts’ two sons, who despise them; the ever present fear of German attack; and the dread of homelessness test their mettle to the limit. The orphans long to find a home of their own, and good boy William is stressed by his responsibility as head of the small family. Edmund’s desire for revenge against the Forresters and a prank involving a snake get them evicted from their billet, and they end up in a much worse situation. They find sanctuary in the village library and a savior in the librarian, who is married to a German and therefore ostracized by the locals. Mrs. Müller provides them with moral support, a listening ear, and true appreciation and love. The classic books she chooses for them—The Wind in the Willows and Anne of Green Gables, among others—may generate ideas for further reading. All characters are White.

A wartime drama with enough depth and psychological complexity to satisfy budding bookworms. (reading list) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4705-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch.

RESISTANCE

A Jewish girl joins up with Polish resistance groups to fight for her people against the evils of the Holocaust.

Chaya Lindner is forcibly separated from her family when they are consigned to the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. The 16-year-old is taken in by the leaders of Akiva, a fledgling Jewish resistance group that offers her the opportunity to become a courier, using her fair coloring to pass for Polish and sneak into ghettos to smuggle in supplies and information. Chaya’s missions quickly become more dangerous, taking her on a perilous journey from a disastrous mission in Krakow to the ghastly ghetto of Lodz and eventually to Warsaw to aid the Jews there in their gathering uprising inside the walls of the ghetto. Through it all, she is partnered with a secretive young girl whom she is reluctant to trust. The trajectory of the narrative skews toward the sensational, highlighting moments of resistance via cinematic action sequences but not pausing to linger on the emotional toll of the Holocaust’s atrocities. Younger readers without sufficient historical knowledge may not appreciate the gravity of the events depicted. The principal characters lack depth, and their actions and the situations they find themselves in often require too much suspension of disbelief to pass for realism.

Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14847-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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