THE MOONSTONES

A contrived romance/mystery with an anticlimactic ending and exaggerated, two-dimensional characters. Coming into a small Pacific coast town to help close her deceased grandmother’s house, Jane Douglas glimpses a gray-eyed boy, and can’t get him out of her mind. She throws sensibility to the winds and joins her brassy, malicious cousin Ricki in sneaking out at night to meet him at a shabby local amusement park, where she learns that his name is Carey, and that he’s just as fascinated by her. By day, Jane watches in puzzlement as her mother, Abby, is manipulated and insulted by Ricki’s shrill, selfish mother, Norma. Thesman pumps suspense into the story with hints of a skeleton in the family closet, odd behavior, threats open and veiled, enigmatic undertones, and ominous parallels between past and present events, but none of it comes to much. When Jane’s anger at Ricki and Norma outweighs her desire to see Carey, she hustles her mother away, headed for home. Romance-minded readers will sigh over Jane’s and Carey’s moonlight trysts, but the relentlessly hateful behavior of Norma and Ricki turns them into caricatures, and the Douglas’s escape leaves all the carefully produced tension unreleased. It’s a step back for Thesman (The Storyteller’s Daughter, 1997, etc.), who shows better skills and a surer hand with character in all her previous novels. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-87959-2

Page Count: 159

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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