Equal parts suspenseful and emotionally insightful.

TROUBLEMAKER

Noted actor Cho and co-author Suk share the journey of a Korean American sixth grader struggling with feeling inadequate.

It’s 1992 in Glendale, California, and Jordan’s life is coming apart: He’s been suspended from school for cheating. He’s banned from seeing Mike, his impulsive church friend. Sarah, his adored older sister, is always busy—and so perfect that he looks even more disappointing by comparison. Appa and Umma, burdened with financial worries, are constantly working at their liquor store. Jordan’s family immigrated 9 years earlier, but the bright American future they sacrificed so much for seems questionable. Now people are erupting in protest over the unjust Rodney King verdict and tragic killing of Latasha Harlins by a Korean shop owner. Driven by deep emotional pain and a desire to prove himself to Appa, Jordan sneaks out with Mike—and the gun his father’s forbidden him to touch. As violence spreads toward Koreatown, he tries to deliver it as protection for Appa, who’s boarding up the store. This ill-conceived plan goes awry, and during the fraught evening the boys learn about integrity, bias, and more. The realistically middle-grade voice, strong characterization, and well-paced storyline show the growth of a boy who is moving from limited awareness to a mature perspective on his place in his family and broader community. The novel weaves together large-scale issues of social injustice and interracial barriers with the intimate pain—and joy—of personal relationships.

Equal parts suspenseful and emotionally insightful. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5447-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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