KARMA FOR BEGINNERS

After a promising debut in 2007’s Almost Home, Blank strikes out. Fourteen-year-old Tessa trails after her hippie mother, Sarah, from town to town, boyfriend to boyfriend, searching for meaning. Sarah swears the Ashram in the Catskills will be different. There, unsupervised Tessa finds comfort in the arms of 20-year-old Colin, who introduces Tessa to sex and drugs. Sarah finds herself (while ignoring Tessa), but the genuinely powerful guru uses his charisma for personal gain and Sarah reverts to form and becomes his lover. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it resolution comes after Tessa’s clumsy use of her blossoming sexual power while tripping on LSD ends with a sexual assault, and Sarah’s relationship with the guru simultaneously comes to light, concluding their parallel journeys through confusion and misguided relationships. Tessa tells her mother how she feels (neglected, hurt, angry) and the two ride off into the sunset. The soundtrack of classic rock and ’80s New Wave is pretty awesome, but the trite messages—sex doesn’t fulfill; guys are trouble—are hardly worth the journey. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4231-1751-3

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

THE LOVE AND LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI

A coming-out story featuring diverse characters and a richly rendered international setting.

Bangladeshi-American Rukhsana Ali must choose between her family’s wishes and following her heart.

Although her Muslim immigrant parents approve of her professional dreams of becoming a physicist at NASA, Rukhsana is sure that they won’t be as enthusiastic about her personal dream of spending her life with her secret girlfriend, Ariana, who is white. After winning a prestigious scholarship to Caltech, her professional ambitions seem within reach—until her mother catches her kissing Ariana and she is whisked away to Bangladesh with plans to arrange her marriage. As she battles her parents’ homophobia, Rukhsana simultaneously struggles to help Ariana and her friends back home in Seattle understand the weight of the cultural and social stigmas that she has to fight. Along the way, Rukhsana finds unexpected allies, including her grandmother, who encourages her to fight for what she wants. This witty coming-out story is populated by colorful, nuanced personalities who never lapse into stereotypes. Unfortunately, the fast pace leaves readers little time to digest the most intense moments, including some physical and sexual violence. Likewise, the sheer amount of action leaves certain characters, like Rukhsana’s spoiled but loving brother, insufficient time to fully develop. However, the story is told tenderly and unflinchingly, balancing the horrors of homophobia against the South Asian men and women who risk their lives to fight it each and every day.

A coming-out story featuring diverse characters and a richly rendered international setting. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-22701-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2019

THIS DARK DESCENT

An elaborate yet convoluted high fantasy that references Jewish folklore.

In the complicated political fantasy landscape of Enderlain, Mikira Rusel and Arielle Kadar are strong young women forced into dire circumstances.

Ari uses banned Kinnish magic, based on the Jewish myth of the golem, to feed herself. Mikira is from a family who breeds magical horses. Early in the story, Ari is assaulted and robbed, while Mikira’s father, who is deeply in debt and using illegal enchantment to enhance his horses, is arrested. Using the girls’ desperation to their own advantage, Damien Adair and Rezek Kelbra, the sons of two warring noble houses, each devise plots to gain power to control the city. Damien enlists Ari and Mikira in a devious plan to win the Illinir, a series of dangerous horse races held once every decade: Mikira will be the jockey, and Ari will create a golem disguised as a horse. While this dual narrative told in the girls’ alternating points of view is original and engaging, the multiple storylines and numerous characters lead to plot holes that may confuse readers. The languid pace of most of the story leads up to an ending that comes too quickly and leaves many open storylines and unanswered questions. While it’s obvious that a sequel is in the works, the perplexing nature of this book might leave some readers feeling unfulfilled. The main characters have olive or light skin.

An elaborate yet convoluted high fantasy that references Jewish folklore. (map, family trees) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781250812360

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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