This potentially inspiring tale staggers along under the weight of a worthy agenda.

READ REVIEW

BLOOD RUNNER

A general indictment of apartheid is thinly wrapped in a tale about a young Zulu marathoner who runs for his country in the Olympics.

When police fire into a crowd watching a peaceful demonstration, they orphan young Samuel and his two older brothers, radicalizing the latter. In later years one brother loses his mind on Robben Island, and the other is killed in a gun battle. Samuel, though, grows up to leverage his love of running barefoot over his dusty tribal “homeland” into a spot on South Africa’s Olympics team after apartheid collapses and Mandela is freed. Riordan loosely bases his disconnected main plot on the experiences of Josiah Thugwane, the first black gold medalist from South Africa. He begins his book with the graphically depicted opening massacre, closely followed by a disturbingly gruesome hospital scene. To these he adds angry rhetoric (“Where was British justice now?”) and ugly words when Samuel goes to get a passbook and later boards a “Whites Only” train car by mistake. For readers who still aren't with the program, he provides infodumps about South Africa’s racial history and the African National Congress and a triumphant set piece when Samuel casts a vote in his first national election. Samuel runs (and wins) the climactic race with a letter from Mandela tucked in his shoe.

This potentially inspiring tale staggers along under the weight of a worthy agenda. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84507-934-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity.

FUTUREDAZE

AN ANTHOLOGY OF YA SCIENCE FICTION

A low-wattage collection of original stories and poems, as unmemorable as it is unappealingly titled.

The collection was inspired by a perceived paucity of short science fiction for teen readers, and its production costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign. The editors gather a dozen poems and 21 stories from a stable of contributors who, after headliners Jack McDevitt and Nancy Holder, will be largely unknown even to widely read fans of the genre. The tales place their characters aboard spacecraft or space stations, on other worlds or in future dystopias, but only rarely do the writers capture a credibly adolescent voice or sensibility. Standouts in this department are the Heinlein-esque “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” by Stephen D. Covey & Sandra McDonald, about a first date/joyride in space gone wrong, and Camille Alexa’s portrait of a teen traumatized by a cyberspace assault (“Over It”). Along with a few attempts to craft futuristic slang, only Lavie Tidhar’s fragmentary tale of Tel Aviv invaded by successive waves of aliens, doppelgangers, zombies and carnivorous plants (“The Myriad Dangers”) effectively lightens the overall earnest tone. Aside from fictional aliens and modified humans, occasional references to dark skin (“Out of the Silent Sea,” Dale Lucas) are the only signs of ethnic diversity. Most of the free-verse poetry makes only oblique, at best, references to science-fictional themes.

A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity. (author bios) (Science fiction/short stories. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9847824-0-8

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Underwords

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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Though the footnotes feel gimmicky and distracting, readers will likely be able to look past them (or just skip over them)...

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ME

Cleverly woven through the titular encyclopedia—with entries as seemingly mundane as “Apple” and “Oxen”—is the touchingly real and often humorous story of a preteen’s struggles with family, friendship and first love.

Isadora “Tink” Aaron-Martin, nearly 13, means to make the most of her recent grounding by using her time on house arrest to write an encyclopedia, heavily annotated with footnotes. Frustrated by her reputation as the peacemaker, Tink’s entries about life with an autistic brother are fresh and painfully honest. Rivers doesn’t tiptoe around the destructive impact the syndrome can have on a family. Rather, through Tink, she explores what it’s like to grow up in a house where everyone is constantly walking on eggshells, waiting for the next violent outburst. But family isn’t the only place where Tink feels invisible. She also walks in the shadow of her “best friend,” Freddie Blue Anderson, who seems to care more about being “pops” (popular) than about Tink. It isn’t until a blue-haired skateboarder named Kai moves in next door that she gradually finds the strength to put herself first, both at home and at school. 

Though the footnotes feel gimmicky and distracting, readers will likely be able to look past them (or just skip over them) and cheer for Tink as she comes into her own. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-31028-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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