13

THIRTEEN STORIES THAT CAPTURE THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF BEING THIRTEEN

Just as 13 is an age with agonies and ecstasies, this collection ranges from the trivial to the powerful. The stories cover bar mitzvahs and brand names, emerging sexuality and death. Conflicts between growing desire for popularity and emerging moral and social consciousness dominate the collection. Howe’s own “Jeremy Goldblatt Is So Not Moses” is a hilarious and moving tale of homelessness and social conventions. Conformity conflicts with eco-awareness in Todd Strasser’s funny “Squid Girl.” Stephen Roos’s poignant and powerful “Picky Eater” explores the darker side of fitting in. Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin provide the weakest contribution, a trite paean to adolescence. Each contribution closes with a painfully awkward photograph of the author at 13, a wonderful reminder that the authors, too, shared the pain. Focus on change and growth gives strength to this offering. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-82863-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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THE CORPS OF THE BARE-BONED PLANE

Not exactly a change of pace for Horvath, this slightly less bizarre (only slightly) tale than her usual quirkiness assembles a quartet of grieving loners in a baroque mansion on a remote British Columbian island. Having lost their parents to an accident in faraway Zimbabwe, teenaged cousins Jocelyn and Meline are sent to live with their reclusive uncle Marten—an ex-stockbroker with absolutely no social skills. In desperation, he hires as cook/housekeeper Mrs. Mendelbaum, an old Austrian whose family has predeceased her, and who smuggles in bottles of a barbiturate “cough syrup” to which she and Jocelyn become addicted. These four trade off elaborate monologues that take the tale past months of steady rainfall, a perfectly hideous and hysterically funny Christmas, Meline’s effort to reconstruct an airplane from wrecked parts and the revelation of an older family tragedy, which explains a lot. While Meline’s final monologue is perhaps a too-facile tying up of loose strings, readers will sink deeply into the story, finding the truth under the eccentricity. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-374-31553-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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MULTIPLE CHOICE

A teenager concocts a risky private game that almost leads to tragedy in this character portrait of a borderline obsessive-compulsive from Tashjian (Tru Confessions, 1997). Weary of incessant worrying, regrets, and mental instant replays, Monica tries a distraction; drawing on her fondness for anagrams and other wordplay, she performs an act either a) normal, b) silly, c) mean, or d) sacrificial, depending on which of four Scrabble letters she draws. Repeated drawings lead to several good deeds, which are more than balanced out by embarrassing or painful ones. Soon Monica has made herself wear pajamas to school, give away her prized kaleidoscope, alienate her best friend, and, after locking Justin, the preschooler she babysits, in his room, driven him to jump from a window and scratch his cornea. Monica comes off more as a born fretter than someone with an actual disorder, so her desperation seems overdone; the game appears less a compulsion than a bad decision that gets out of hand. Still, readers will feel Monica’s thrill when she takes charge, and also, with uncommon sharpness, her bitter remorse after Justin’s accident. Once Monica’s secret is out, Tashjian surrounds her with caring adults and, turning her penchant for self-analysis in more constructive directions, leads her to the liberating insight that she’s been taking herself too seriously. As a light study in how self-absorption can sometimes help as well as hurt, Multiple Choice is a fitting choice. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6086-3

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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