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ZEN AND THE ART OF FAKING IT

Adolescence is a time when teenagers ask the all-important question, “Who am I?,” but for San Lee, an adopted Chinese boy starting eighth grade in a new school, the question has particular urgency. Luckily, Sonnenblick pens this story, so all that soul searching is side-splittingly funny as well. San, suddenly poor due to his swindling father’s incarceration, becomes the only Asian child at Harrisonville Middle School. That, combined with the fact that he once did a project on Taoism and Zen Buddhism at another school, causes him to come up with a new persona: Buddha Boy. Having learned the art of the con at his father’s knee, San, now a “Zen Man with a Zen Plan,” manages to convince almost everyone, most importantly the girl he likes, of his superior spiritual knowledge. The irony is that by allowing the lies to pile up, this faux Zen master becomes like the one person he doesn’t want to be. Hilarious and heart-wrenching. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-439-83707-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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BRONX MASQUERADE

At the end of the term, a new student who is black and Vietnamese finds a morsel of hope that she too will find a place in...

This is almost like a play for 18 voices, as Grimes (Stepping Out with Grandma Mac, not reviewed, etc.) moves her narration among a group of high school students in the Bronx.

The English teacher, Mr. Ward, accepts a set of poems from Wesley, his response to a month of reading poetry from the Harlem Renaissance. Soon there’s an open-mike poetry reading, sponsored by Mr. Ward, every month, and then later, every week. The chapters in the students’ voices alternate with the poems read by that student, defiant, shy, terrified. All of them, black, Latino, white, male, and female, talk about the unease and alienation endemic to their ages, and they do it in fresh and appealing voices. Among them: Janelle, who is tired of being called fat; Leslie, who finds friendship in another who has lost her mom; Diondra, who hides her art from her father; Tyrone, who has faith in words and in his “moms”; Devon, whose love for books and jazz gets jeers. Beyond those capsules are rich and complex teens, and their tentative reaching out to each other increases as through the poems they also find more of themselves. Steve writes: “But hey! Joy / is not a crime, though / some people / make it seem so.”

At the end of the term, a new student who is black and Vietnamese finds a morsel of hope that she too will find a place in the poetry. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2569-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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