Appealing, accessible stories for teens interested in the arts that will tempt them to become avid readers.

RAW TALENT

From the Orca Limelights series

Paisley McFarland is a freshman in high school who loves to sing but has horrible stage fright in this entry in a performing-arts themed series for reluctant readers.

When a local farm announces a talent show fundraiser, Paisley signs up to sing, but will she be able to pull it off? Like many young people, Paisley is also fighting her mother’s expectations of what she “should” be doing—in her case, singing classical choir pieces rather than pop music. Her best friend, Jasmeer Sharma-Smith, believes in her and convinces the famous actress and singer Maxine Gaston to coach Paisley and help with her performance anxiety. Her private lessons help give her the confidence to go onstage at the upcoming event, but Paisley also has to deal with bullying from Cadence Wang, another student singer. Much like in real life, the negative behavior is not neatly resolved. Paisley is implied white; diversity is indicated through characters’ names. In Offbeat by Megan Clendenan, Rose Callaghan is a Celtic fiddle player who hopes to win a folk festival competition in order to prove to her lawyer mother how serious she is about music she loves rather than the classical music her mother wants her to play. Things go awry when her special violin, left to her by her deceased father, breaks—will she still be able to perform well? The book follows a white default.

Appealing, accessible stories for teens interested in the arts that will tempt them to become avid readers. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1834-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch.

RESISTANCE

A Jewish girl joins up with Polish resistance groups to fight for her people against the evils of the Holocaust.

Chaya Lindner is forcibly separated from her family when they are consigned to the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. The 16-year-old is taken in by the leaders of Akiva, a fledgling Jewish resistance group that offers her the opportunity to become a courier, using her fair coloring to pass for Polish and sneak into ghettos to smuggle in supplies and information. Chaya’s missions quickly become more dangerous, taking her on a perilous journey from a disastrous mission in Krakow to the ghastly ghetto of Lodz and eventually to Warsaw to aid the Jews there in their gathering uprising inside the walls of the ghetto. Through it all, she is partnered with a secretive young girl whom she is reluctant to trust. The trajectory of the narrative skews toward the sensational, highlighting moments of resistance via cinematic action sequences but not pausing to linger on the emotional toll of the Holocaust’s atrocities. Younger readers without sufficient historical knowledge may not appreciate the gravity of the events depicted. The principal characters lack depth, and their actions and the situations they find themselves in often require too much suspension of disbelief to pass for realism.

Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14847-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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