WHEN DAD KILLED MOM

A brother and sister try in their separate ways to cope with the ultimate family cataclysm. This decidedly unfun novel is a real departure for Lester (The Blues Singers, see above, etc.), who has recently been primarily concerned with lighter themes. Jeremy, 12, and Jenna, 14, alternate first-person accounts of the aftermath of their artist mother’s murder at the hands of their psychologist father, each sorting out his or her relationships with mother, father, and each other. Jeremy, it turns out, was a real mama’s boy, whereas the sexually precocious Jenna has always felt much closer to their father, and their confusion and sorrow further separate—but ultimately unite—the siblings. A number of saintly adults help the children work through their grief and anger, most notably the eternally patient Karen, their father’s ex-wife and mother’s best friend, who is perfectly positioned to present critical revelations that help both children and reader understand what has happened. Jenna’s narrative is frequently foul-mouthed but bravely honest as she struggles with a genuine love for her father and with guilt over her adolescent battles with her mother. Jeremy’s is pleasingly naïve and straightforward, but is weakened by his convenient discovery of his mother’s diary, which describes the dissolution of her marriage in barely credible detail. The last third of the book is a courtroom drama in which all is made clear and the father is once and for all exposed for the stinker he’s always been. Almost ridiculously contrived, it’s nevertheless a compelling story suffused with raw and honest emotion, the heightened nature of which will naturally appeal to teens. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-216305-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

The lives of two girls named Hannah, living in different centuries on different continents, intersect.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Dory is an English peasant living a harsh existence in 1347. Hannah Doe is a resident of Belman Psychiatric Hospital in 2023 New York City, brought in after being found on the street experiencing hallucinations and screaming something about a castle. Modern-day Hannah periodically enters a catatonic state, something the staff refer to as her “going to the castle.” Columbia psychology student Jordan Hassan is a new intern at Belman, and his interest is piqued by this girl no one knows much about. He decides to play detective and try to discover her history himself. Meanwhile, in the medieval England storyline, Hannah Dory tries to save her village from starvation by sneaking into the baron’s castle but finds herself swept up in a fight between the new baron and his rival. The book sustains a breakneck pace with short chapters and many cliffhangers that will keep readers’ interest. Patterson’s author’s note includes a list of mental health resources and describes his experience of working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. The narrative thoughtfully centers mental illness and touches on complex topics like suicide. Whiteness is the default; Jordan is cued as Muslim.

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-41172-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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