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STEALING INDIANS

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

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: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

Bound to be popular.

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. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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