WHASIAN

Provocative themes help to mitigate textual infelicities.

Ava Ling Magee, a college freshman at Davison University, struggles with her mixed-race heritage and a ruthless and controlling parent in Stoffers’ debut for teens.

When Ava arrives at the dorms, she’s greeted with a typical question: “Who’s Chinese? Your mom or dad?” Her response? “Neither.” It’s a bald-faced lie, as Ava is Chinese on her mother’s side and Caucasian on her dad’s. For most of her life, Ava has felt split between two worlds, unable to feel either Chinese enough or white enough. Worse, Mei physically and verbally abuses Ava (using both English and Mandarin obscenities freely), while her dad buries himself in work. Daring to major in English, not cellular biology, Ava finds a mentor in Professor Chen, whose hair features multicolored streaks and who encourages Ava to see herself in valuable ways. Another discovery, her Chinese grandmother’s diary, written during China’s Cultural Revolution, may hold treasured insights that could heal Ava’s present. While the author shines in some moments, notably with Professor Chen and Lao lao’s diary, her prose would benefit from hearty and tough-love doses of pruning. The inclusion of Ava’s parents’ back story and narrative shifts to their perspectives detract from Ava, as she’s whole enough to carry the book. Complex racial-identity themes run deep; though overdone at times, they nonetheless expose many of the challenges of being biracial. As an alternative means of exploring these themes, readers may prefer The Latte Rebellion, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson (2011), written for a slightly younger audience.

Provocative themes help to mitigate textual infelicities. (Fiction. 16 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-987757-6-3

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Harken Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO

Opening episodes of a comic-book series created by an American teacher in Japan take a leap into chapter-book format, with only partial success. Resembling—in occasional illustrations—a button-eyed, juvenile Olive Oyl, Akiko, 10, is persuaded by a pair of aliens named Bip and Bop to climb out her high-rise bedroom’s window for a trip to M&M-shaped Planet Smoo, where Prince Fropstoppit has been kidnapped by widely feared villainness Alia Rellaport. Along with an assortment of contentious sidekicks, including brainy Mr. Beeba, Akiko battles Sky Pirates and video-game-style monsters in prolonged scenes of cartoony violence, displaying resilience, courage, and leadership ability, but not getting very far in her rescue attempt; in fact, the story cuts off so abruptly, with so little of the quest completed, and at a lull in the action to boot, that readers expecting a self-contained (forget complete) story are likely to feel cheated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32724-2

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

THE WISDOM OF MERLIN

7 MAGICAL WORDS FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE

Words to live by, trite and larded with sentiment though they be in this particular iteration.

A small volume of homilies, spun from a 2013 speech and perfect for a graduate's gift (should pots of money not be an option).

Settled in his Crystal Cave, the old magician delivers observations and instructions gathered around "Seven Most Magical Words"—Gratitude, Courage, Knowledge, Belief, Wonder, Generosity and Hope—capped and completed by an eighth, Love. Threading in avuncular references to "my good friend Buddha," "[t]hat fellow Albert Einstein" and other luminaries, he urges listeners to turn off their electronic devices (because "being fully scheduled is not the same as being fully alive"), care for the planet, allow others their beliefs, and just generally "celebrate the wonder of it all." Most importantly, don't pass up love, because without it you "won't feel agony, but you will also never experience ecstasy." It’s hard not to wonder what the audience at Oxford University, the speech’s original audience, thought of it all.

Words to live by, trite and larded with sentiment though they be in this particular iteration. (Inspiration. 17 & up)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17325-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

Close Quickview