Intellectually engaging yet strangely unmoving, this unusual story about a cut-off child seeking to reconnect and belong...



After Toswiah’s father, a black policeman who loves and believes in the moral rightness of his profession, makes the excruciating decision to testify against two white cops who shot and killed an unarmed black boy, Toswiah and her family enter the witness-protection program.

Toswiah Green, now Evie Thomas, watches helplessly as her once rock-solid family falls apart. Her father, previously a strong, competent man, spends his days sitting silently by the window, lost in tortured thoughts and smelling like old laundry, “right there but slipping away.” Evie’s mother, currently cut off from her adored profession of teaching children, has turned to God, becoming another kind of witness, this time for Jehovah. To cope, 13-year-old Evie and her older sister Cameron, now Anna, try not to think about the present but instead move into “the far, far future,” a time when their lives will be settled and sane. Written as Toswiah/Evie’s diary in a fluid almost impressionist style that keeps the reader at a distance, Woodson paints a portrait of people who have made the agonizing journey from being somebody to nobody. She’s interested in exploring what makes the core “I am” of a person, who they are when everything—friends, community, profession, even their names—has been stripped from them.

Intellectually engaging yet strangely unmoving, this unusual story about a cut-off child seeking to reconnect and belong will give youngsters plenty to think about. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23114-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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