ACTING NORMAL

Hoban (Buzby, 1990, etc.) creates her first novel from the contemporary headline issue of repressed memory. After years of attending a special school while modeling for TV commercials, Stephanie, 18, is in a regular high school, where her attempt to fit in is aided by her new friend, Dahlia. Stephanie harbors a haunting secret, repeatedly alluded to throughout the first half of the novel: In a series of flashbacks from Stephanie’s acting classes, the sense-memory method unearths a painful memory from when she was five and was burned on her arm by her nanny—“She was the voice, she was holding my arm against the radiator because I didn’t want to do what she wanted.” Given abundant clues describing nebulous fears or terrors that lurk around every corner, readers will be anticipating the abuse long before the secret is revealed. The adults in this talk-laden story, a psychiatrist and an acting teacher, prattle on with standard responses, and the parents are nothing more than props. Some implausible moments rely on coincidence—a bus happens to break down, causing friend Dahlia to try to hitchhike, leading to an assault on her by a truck driver—but result in the catharsis through which Stephanie recognizes that what happened to her was not her fault. A familiar, unembellished first-person narration makes this a comfortable read for its audience, and Stephanie is worthy of compassion in her efforts to heal an old injury. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 31, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-023519-5

Page Count: 206

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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