This slowly building novel avoids stereotype, offering a captivating narrative with nuanced perceptions of death, love, and...

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UNDER WATER

Khosi, a 17-year-old Zulu woman, seeks to fully inhabit both spiritual traditions in which she was raised while struggling to support her younger sister, Zi.

Baptized Catholic and later chosen for induction into the spiritual traditions of her ancestors, Khosi’s fight for survival begins the day she welcomes guests to mourn her grandmother. Her Auntie is suspicious that Khosi bewitched Gogo, who had looked after Khosi and Zi since their mother passed away from HIV three years earlier. As Khosi is left with no support from her family, her beau, Little Man, sets a plan in motion to assist her—however his good intentions go awry, placing them all in physical danger. Soon after the funeral, Khosi also breaks the deathbed promises she made to her grandmother. Under the watchful eye of her ancestors, she stumbles along, setting up her own business as a spiritual healer. While the voices of the ancestors are ever present to guide her, her nursing ambitions and insightful understanding of familial relations enable her to give holistic advice to her customers. Learning of the trouble brewing in her area, Khosi delivers warnings to those involved and ends up the target of multiple groups seeking to cause her harm. This intriguing story is set against a backdrop of social upheaval due to economic discontent in contemporary, multicultural South Africa.

This slowly building novel avoids stereotype, offering a captivating narrative with nuanced perceptions of death, love, and cathartic self-discovery. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947627-04-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort.

THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH

Tragedy hovers over a blossoming romance.

Brazilian-American Sebastian “Bash” Alvaréz is just trying to get by when he meets the nerdy, white Birdie Paxton. The two spark up some romantic fire, but disaster quickly strikes. Late one night, Bash and his ne’er-do-well pal “Wild” Kyle are driving erratically (Kyle is at the wheel) and slam right into Birdie’s baby brother, Benny. The boys flee the scene, while Benny slips into a coma and the town begins to hunt for the perpetrators of the hit-and-run. Bash keeps his secret from Birdie as they grow closer, and readers will roll their eyes at the excessive misery. The author gives Bash a dying mother to balance out the equation, but the choice overloads the devastation factor. With everything emotional and awful and crazy and turned up to 11, nothing really sticks out. The two moping, guilt-ridden protagonists are drawn well enough—they alternate narration—but seem to be stuck in a narrative hell bent on getting readers to cry. Secondary characters are poorly sketched, given no interior life, and merely activated to interact with Birdie and Bash. The novel’s end is disproportionately sunny and hopeful, giving readers tonal whiplash. A last-minute Hail Mary act gets the teens out of the narrative corner, but it feels spectacularly tacked-on.

A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11622-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Carrick (Melanie, 1996, etc.) sensitively explores the pain of a parent’s death through the eyes, feelings, and voice of a nine-year-old boy whose world turns upside down when his father becomes terminally ill with cancer. Through a fictional reminiscence, the story explores many of the issues common to children whose parents are ill—loss of control, changes in physical appearance and mental ability, upsets in daily routine, experiences of guilt and anger, the reaction of friends, and, most of all, a fear of the unknown. Although the book suffers from a pat ending and the black-and-white sketches emphasize the bleakness of the topic, this title is a notch above pure bibliotherapy and will fill a special niche for children struggling to deal with the trauma of parental sickness and death. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-84151-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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