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HAZEL

A wealthy girl in early 20th-century England is exposed to the suffragist movement and eventually shipped off to her grandparents in the Caribbean in this uneven work of historical fiction. Twelve-year-old Hazel Mull-Dare, the daughter of the protagonist of Hearn’s earlier novel Ivy (2008), is heartbroken when her beloved father suffers a breakdown and disappears into a sanatorium. At the same time, she and her friends, including a devious American, decide to stage an action in the name of women’s voting rights. The resulting scandal provides the impetus for her banishment to the family’s sugar plantation, where the naïve, privileged Hazel receives a lesson in the perils of post-colonial living. It is here, finally, that this novel really shines—replete with rich imagery and a nicely eerie folk legend. Most successfully explored is Hazel’s realization of her own family’s culpability in the historical and continual abuse of those they held as slaves. However, while intriguing concepts and even flashes of humor abound throughout, the section set in England stretches on interminably, leaving many threads unresolved. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-2504-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

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 Boyne’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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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