Though the book attempts to decry this blight on our history, without sufficient context and specifics, it may inadvertently...

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STEALING INDIANS

Smelcer’s (Indian Giver, 2016, etc.) new novel focuses on the residential Indian boarding schools, where, according to the headmaster of the infamous Carlisle Indian School, the main purpose was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The novel shares the experiences of four Native American children stolen from their families and then taken to Wellington, a fictional residential school referred to by its students as “Wekonvertum,”—that is, we-convert-them to the mainstream culture. The four protagonists, Simon, Noah, Elijah, and Lucy, live in traditional Native homes in different geographic regions of the country. When government men arrive with legal documents, the families are forced to send them to Wellington. There, the children bond quickly and help one another survive inadequate food and clothing, cruel punishments, and the “English Only” signs. Unfortunately, readers are given only occasional, glancing hints to the 1950s time setting beyond the general absence of references to modern technology and communications. Without firm context, references to King Kong may well have teen readers mistakenly imagining the 2005 version. Furthermore, the protagonists' tribal affiliations are not explicitly provided, beyond one boy's punishment for speaking Navajo; Smelcer mostly uses the term “Indian.”

Though the book attempts to decry this blight on our history, without sufficient context and specifics, it may inadvertently encourage Native American stereotypes, particularly with teen readers.   (discussion questions) (Historical fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-935248-82-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Leapfrog

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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