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Agreeably entertaining.

Griffin Tardiff enters 11th grade in a new school with a shoulder healing from a devastating collision in a hockey playoff game, his last time on the ice.

Narrator Griffin is self-possessed and articulate, with parents who love and support him; he’s a young man prepared to face the challenges that come with relocating due to his father’s job. A community service internship pairs him with the local radio station, where a nationally known hockey broadcaster got his start. Though he misses his girlfriend, Blair, and his old team in Ottawa, Griffin gets to cover a bit of all things hockey for the station’s broadcast and do their social media. It helps that the hockey jocks in his new school immediately befriend him. Among the all-White cast, no one seems more than merely humanly flawed. The station’s sports director has some issues, and Griffin is aware of the shallower behavior of some of his peers, but he steers his own course. He’s got the kind of self-confidence and emotional intelligence that allow him to navigate the internship and new school with ease, find success in his first attempts at covering hockey as a member of the press, share his hockey expertise with a classmate’s little brother, recognize the privilege he has as someone whose family could afford his hockey participation, and gracefully decide what to do about his relationship with Blair. The challenges are low key, and Griffin’s likability is certain.

Agreeably entertaining. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-88995-640-7

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre.

Survival camp? How can you not have bad feelings about that?

Sixteen-year-old nerd (or geek, but not dork) Henry Lambert has no desire to go to Strongwoods Survival Camp. His father thinks it might help Henry man up and free him of some of his odd phobias. Randy, Henry’s best friend since kindergarten, is excited at the prospect of going thanks to the camp’s promotional YouTube video, so Henry relents. When they arrive at the shabby camp in the middle of nowhere and meet the possibly insane counselor (and only staff member), Max, Henry’s bad feelings multiply. Max tries to train his five campers with a combination of carrot and stick, but the boys are not athletes, let alone survivalists. When a trio of gangsters drops in on the camp Games to try to collect the debt owed by the owner, the boys suddenly have to put their skills to the test. Too bad they don’t have any—at all. Strand’s summer-camp farce is peopled with sarcastic losers who’re chatty and wry. It’s often funny, and the gags turn in unexpected directions and would do Saturday Night Live skits proud. However, the story’s flow is hampered by an unnecessary and completely unfunny frame that takes place during the premier of the movie the boys make of their experience. The repeated intrusions bring the narrative to a screeching halt.

Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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