O’Sullivan’s light touch and restraint will allow readers to follow Evangeline as she stands howling into the wind that...

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BETWEEN TWO SKIES

Heartache and deracination wrapped in the lyrical sigh of an epic poem unfold into one girl’s story of struggle, devastation, and survival.

O’Sullivan’s soulful debut follows the Beauchamp clan of Bayou Perdu from the days before Hurricane Katrina scattered the shores of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast to the aftermath that turned natives into refugees and temporary shelters into homes. Evangeline, a “white, mostly” Cajun girl, loves the tiny speck of paradise she and her family inhabit 66 miles from New Orleans. What separates Evangeline’s story from the myriad others that have come and gone in the wake of one of the nation’s worst natural disasters is O’Sullivan’s deft lyricism. One minute, Evangeline is just a girl managing her crush on Vietnamese-American shrimper and musician Tru, a girl who loves where she lives and doesn’t yearn for much else. Then the swirling white blur on the weather forecast stirs up sediment and trees and lives and hopes and tomorrows. Evangeline and her family go from lifetime residents of a close-knit fishing community to refugees in landlocked Atlanta. Displaced, confused, and resentful, the Beauchamps are adrift. O’Sullivan pairs the ache of her Evangeline with the anguish felt by the Acadian protagonists of the famous Longfellow poem.

O’Sullivan’s light touch and restraint will allow readers to follow Evangeline as she stands howling into the wind that howled into her. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9034-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss...

TELL ME THREE THINGS

Jessie’s unassimilated grief over her mother’s death makes her dad’s abrupt marriage to Rachel, a wealthy widow he met online, and their subsequent move from Chicago to her mansion in Los Angeles feel like betrayal.

Rachel’s son wants nothing to do with Jessie. Her first week at his private school is agonizing. When she gets an email from “Somebody Nobody,” claiming to be a male student in the school and offering to act as her “virtual spirit guide,” Jessie’s suspicious, but she accepts—she needs help. SN’s a smart, funny, supportive guide, advising her whom to befriend and whom to avoid while remaining stubbornly anonymous. Meanwhile, Jessie makes friends, is picked as study partner by the coolest guy in AP English, and finds a job in a bookstore, working with the owner’s son, Liam. But questions abound. Why is Liam’s girlfriend bullying her? What should she do about SN now that she’s crushing on study-partner Ethan? Readers will have answers long before Jessie does. It’s overfamiliar territory: a protagonist unaware she’s gorgeous, oblivious to male admiration; a jealous, mean-girl antagonist; a secret admirer, easily identified. It’s the authentic depiction of grief—how Jessie and other characters respond to loss, get stuck, struggle to break through—devoid of cliché, that will keep readers engaged. Though one of Jessie’s friends has a Spanish surname, rich, beautiful, mostly white people are the order of the day.

Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss when life itself means inevitable change. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53564-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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