A week of basketball camp sparks deep changes in a high-school junior’s outlook, but readers may wonder why, so sparely written and roughly constructed is this story from Bennett (The Squared Circle, 1995, etc.). T.J. isn’t looking too hard at just who’s paying for him and his 6’ 9” friend, Tyron, to attend camp; after all, a coach from North State has already made overtures, in direct violation of NCAA rules. Believing that Tyron is a hot enough prospect that colleges might overlook his severe learning disability, T.J. devotes himself to keeping his friend away from the “street agents” and their freebies. Then, sneaking out for a smoke, T.J. meets LuAnn, a pregnant young woman from the Christian camp nearby; something in her talk of blindly trusting God’s will draws him to a sermon by her preacher, Sister Simone. Tragedy follows hard on triumph; during a camp championship game, T.J. finds the inner fire he had lacked, then learns that LuAnn is dead, a suicide who had been suffering from depression, encouraged to substitute faith for medication. Bennett awkwardly tucks a few expletives into the dialogue, patly introduces a character to fill T.J. in on clinical depression, finally drops Tyron (who, from an author known for his sensitive portrayals of mentally and emotionally disturbed characters, comes off as a buffoon) completely, and draws only a tenuous connection between LuAnn’s story and T.J.’s. He also leaves plotlines unresolved, neglects to develop a clear climax, and is skimpy with sports action. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-689-81580-8

Page Count: 134

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006


Death isn’t an easy subject to write about, but Shusterman handles it deftly, as he explores what happens to two children who are “lost” on their way “towards the light.” Nick and Allie have never met, but both are involved in a fatal car accident. They find they are neither living nor spirit; they now exist in Everlost. Learning to cope with their new state of being, they arrive in New York City, where a band of lost children have taken up residence in the Twin Towers, which still stand tall in Everlost. Led by Mary, the Queen of Snot, threatened by the Great McGill and his pirate band, these children have come to accept that this is where they belong and will always be. But Nick and Allie know there must be something—somewhere—else, and they are determined to find out what and where that is. A quirky sense of humor pervades, which helps to lighten what would otherwise be a disturbing concept. But the overall message (that there is existence after life and purpose to that existence and a destination when one is finally ready for it) is one of comfort. For anyone who has lost a friend or loved one at an early age, this is a good read. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-689-87237-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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