In this portrait of a moral dilemma, Cheripko (Imitate the Tiger, 1996, etc.) presents an insecure 15-year-old boy with a deformed arm who can’t decide which is more important: the approval of his friends or telling the truth about a sexual attack he witnessed. Jeremy, or “Rat,” as he is known in his high school, begins by reluctantly testifying against a popular basketball coach, whom he saw assaulting a cheerleader. With the coach convicted and sent to jail, the entire school, and especially the basketball team, ostracize Jeremy. The school’s science teacher takes over as the new coach, imposing on the team not only strong discipline and excellent basketball knowledge, but also a strict moral code. He encourages Jeremy to remain as the team manager despite the hostility of the players, especially Simpson, who threatens violence. Jeremy first believes he’s done wrong by telling the truth, yet Simpson’s uncontrollable behavior appalls him. Cheripko, however, doesn’t portray Simpson as merely a cardboard-cutout villain; instead, he allows readers to discover that Simpson suffers from a handicap less visible but just as debilitating as Jeremy’s withered arm. There’s enough basketball action to attract fans of the sport and the drama keeps flowing. Written with honesty and insight into teenaged angst, this should easily maintain young readers’ interest as well as serve as a discussion starter. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-59078-034-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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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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