THE REAPPEARANCE OF SAM WEBBER

A year in the life of a Baltimore boy provides the basis for a formidable portrait of urban American life. Eleven-year-old Sam Webber, usually known as Little Sam, abruptly becomes just plain Samuel when his father disappears without a trace. Hoping he was kidnaped (abandonment is the far more devastating, though likely, explanation), Sam is traumatized further by the move his mother’s forced to make from their pristine middle-class neighborhood to a rough area of town. A closet in their new home becomes the TV room, and Sam watches rain pour in through a leaky kitchen window. Completing the transformation of Sam’s old life to new is his attendance at an unfamiliar school full of bullies, pregnant teens, and, miraculously, Greely. A black janitor at the school, Greely notices Sam’s distress—the constant hyperventilation, the nausea, his obvious fears—and befriends the boy in a way that alters him profoundly. Greely tells Sam about the civil rights movement, tosses a football with him, takes him to the Little Tavern for burgers—in short, becomes a surrogate father. Others slowly fill the shoes Sam’s father left empty: His mother’s new boyfriend Howard, sharing comic books and companionship; and Junie and Ditch, his mother’s employers at the flower shop. In Sam’s second Baltimore, a skinned, gritty version of what he once knew, he comes into his own, no longer afraid of dirty streets or gangs of kids and slowly accepting the loss of his father as he learns to depend more on himself. Although his father never returns, others love and nurture Little Sam, leading to the emergence of a Sam who is less troubled. A warming exploration of fairly routine material, made attractive by newcomer Fuqua’s depiction of city life. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-890862-02-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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