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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

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At the end of the term, a new student who is black and Vietnamese finds a morsel of hope that she too will find a place in...

This is almost like a play for 18 voices, as Grimes (Stepping Out with Grandma Mac, not reviewed, etc.) moves her narration among a group of high school students in the Bronx.

The English teacher, Mr. Ward, accepts a set of poems from Wesley, his response to a month of reading poetry from the Harlem Renaissance. Soon there’s an open-mike poetry reading, sponsored by Mr. Ward, every month, and then later, every week. The chapters in the students’ voices alternate with the poems read by that student, defiant, shy, terrified. All of them, black, Latino, white, male, and female, talk about the unease and alienation endemic to their ages, and they do it in fresh and appealing voices. Among them: Janelle, who is tired of being called fat; Leslie, who finds friendship in another who has lost her mom; Diondra, who hides her art from her father; Tyrone, who has faith in words and in his “moms”; Devon, whose love for books and jazz gets jeers. Beyond those capsules are rich and complex teens, and their tentative reaching out to each other increases as through the poems they also find more of themselves. Steve writes: “But hey! Joy / is not a crime, though / some people / make it seem so.”

At the end of the term, a new student who is black and Vietnamese finds a morsel of hope that she too will find a place in the poetry. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2569-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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