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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition.

THE POETRY OF SECRETS

In Trujillo, in the Spanish Kingdom of Castile in 1481, Isabel is a Crypto-Jew; she and her family maintain their Jewish faith in secret.

The Inquisition is gaining control, but 16-year-old Isabel, who has a passion for writing poetry, thinks that as New Christians her family is safe. The family converted to Christianity and were baptized in the hope of making their lives easier and more secure. However, like many other Jews in Spain at the time, they privately practice Judaism—attending church on Sundays but conducting Shabbat dinners every Friday night. They think their secret is safe, but the head Inquisitor, Fray Tomás Torquemada, is now targeting conversos for their private Judaizing. When Isabel is betrothed against her will to the powerful and ruthless alguacil, or sheriff, Don Sancho, Isabel’s parents believe that the upcoming marriage will save them from persecution. But when handsome aristocrat Diego warns Isabel that she is in grave danger from the Inquisition and especially from her husband-to-be, Isabel is determined to save her family, herself, and the man she loves—and live an openly Jewish life filled with poetry. This historical romance is a fast-paced, plot-driven tale with feminist main characters whom readers will root for from the very beginning.

A charming Jewish love story set against the bleak backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. (author’s note, photos, research notes, poetry citations, further reading) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-63418-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Evil that is impossibly difficult to comprehend and filled with word-images that will leave readers gasping. The author’s...

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WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS

Gerta didn’t know she was Jewish until she and her father were taken for transport by the Nazis.

When Bergen-Belsen is liberated, Gerta and the other survivors are ill, skeletal, dying, or sunk in madness, and they have no homes to which they can return. Relating the events that led her there, she tells of a seemingly carefree life in Würzburg with her musician father and German gentile stepmother, an opera singer who is also Gerta’s voice teacher. But they were living with false identification papers, and their lives become ever more withdrawn. She has fleeting visions of her early childhood in Köln, of her mother, and of Kristallnacht. The cattle-car journey to Theresienstadt is only the beginning of days, weeks, months, years filled with unspeakable horrors in the “intricacies of the Nazi web…the animalization of human souls.” Then comes Auschwitz, where her father is gassed, then Bergen-Belsen, typhus, and, finally, a kind of awakening to her own humanity. Later she covertly enters British-occupied Palestine, Eratz Yisrael, and builds a life there. Stamper spares readers nothing. Everything that Gerta witnesses or experiences really happened in the hell that was the Holocaust, including the further humiliations in its aftermath, a rarely told part of the story. The text is on pale, sepia-toned paper with dark, eerie illustrations in the same tones, reminiscent of real drawings produced by camp inmates.

Evil that is impossibly difficult to comprehend and filled with word-images that will leave readers gasping. The author’s dedication says it all, in both Hebrew and English: “Remember.” (author’s note, map, glossary, resources, acknowledgments; not seen) (Historical fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-0038-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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