An appealing debut for romance fans and readers willing to suspend disbelief.

THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART

For years, Leah has stolen out at night to the forest abutting her East Texas home to set out apples on a tree stump, then hide and watch three giant, hairy Bigfoot lumber out and consume her offering; this time, the visitors include a human boy.

Leah’s kept her trips secret from her dysfunctional, all-white family: authoritarian preacher dad, secret-tippler mom, and older brother Matt. Each has nursed corrosive secrets in the decade since Matt’s twin died in a horrific incident that also claimed the brother and father of Leah’s best friend, Ashley (all also white). Their losses are a forbidden topic. Why her parents then moved next to the forest puzzles Leah, banned from setting foot in it herself. Blonde Leah attracts romantic attention from Matt’s friend, but he’s no match for the enchanting, mysterious green-eyed, bronze-skinned forest boy who’s claimed Leah’s heart and is equally smitten. In secret encounters that include the smallest Sasquatch, their relationship deepens. Meanwhile, Leah’s parents head out nights, in camo hunting attire; excitement’s replaced their customary hostility. As convoluted paths converge, long-hidden truths are revealed. Related by Leah in the present tense, her discoveries—of the boy, the Sasquatch, and their forest world at night—are intense and authentic, resonating with heady excitement. More mundane plot developments and explanations tidy loose narrative threads but strain credulity. Paradoxically, the Tarzan-esque fantasy rings truest.

An appealing debut for romance fans and readers willing to suspend disbelief. (Romantic fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6351-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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