BENITO RUNS

From the Surviving Southside series

Each book in the high-interest/low-reading-level Surviving Southside series is narrated by a different student at Texas' racially diverse Southside High School. Here, Benito's dad comes home from the war in Iraq. The family has been looking forward to his return, but he now has PTSD and is prone to loud, embarrassing outbursts. Ultimately, Benito leaves the house on an ill-fated bus journey. Plan B, in which a drunken first sexual experience leads to an unplanned pregnancy, tells a familiar story but comes to an open-ended resolution. In Recruited, star quarterback Kadeem faces a moral dilemma: Accept the scholarships, academic string-pulling and cheerleaders' attention offered by Teller College's recruiting coach, or blow the whistle on Teller's illegal recruiting practices. Each book is straightforward, with action beginning immediately and every detail moving the story ahead. Resolutions come quickly (each volume hovers just around 100 pages) and are sometimes unsatisfyingly tidy. Occasionally, a relevant detail is left out—it is never explained, for instance, why NCAA recruiting rules forbid aggressive tactics—but overall, these are solid, simple stories. For reluctant readers and fans of the Bluford High series. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6165-7

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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LOST IN THE RIVER OF GRASS

Thirteen-year-old Sarah’s new classmates at Glades Academy don’t welcome her—she’s there on scholarship, and her mother works in the school cafeteria. On a field trip to the Everglades, Sarah seizes the chance to get away by sneaking off on an airboat ride through the saw-grass marsh with the guide’s 15-year-old son, Andy, taking only her backpack, a camera and some mosquito spray. A stop at a remote fishing camp ends in disaster when the boat sinks, and they’re stranded, surrounded by alligators and snakes, with half a bottle of Gatorade and a can of SPAM. Andy knows what they’re up against, but Sarah refuses to believe that they must leave the tiny island to trudge the 10 miles back to land. Wildlife and vegetation are vividly described; Sarah’s fear is palpable in scenes of near-disaster, and readers will cheer when she and Andy make it safely out of the swamp after five days. However, the first-person narrative is uneven, marred by gaps that make it hard to fully visualize some situations, and there are too few transitions to support some rather sudden instances of closeness between Sarah and Andy. Rorby cleverly offers only subtle hints that Sarah is African-American and Andy is white until late in the story, adding depth to this survival story framed within the story of an outsider. (Adventure. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5685-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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An emotionally moving portrayal of the effects grief has on a family.

A GIRL IN THREE PARTS

Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Allegra is divided by a family at odds with each other.

Allegra’s mum died when she was 3, but she doesn’t know what caused her death or why it made her family stop speaking to each other. She just knows that they each love her differently, and she feels split in three ways trying to maintain relationships with each of them. Allegra lives at Number 23 with her Hungarian Jewish grandmother, Matilde, who is haunted by memories of the war and who runs a strict household. With Matilde she is Allegra. Her father, Rick, takes her surfing, and they have a good time together. But for reasons she doesn’t understand, he lives in the flat above Matilde’s garage; with him she’s Al Pal. Next door, at Number 25, lives her passionate Catholic grandmother, Joy, to whom she is Ally. When Allegra helps a friend and things go awry, their family secrets must be confronted. Set in 1970s Australia at the cusp of a cultural revolution, this is both a story of self-discovery and one of family healing. Debut author Daniel’s strength lies in the creation of complex characters; Allegra in particular operates from a sheltered existence and makes decisions, judgments, and mistakes in an authentic—and, at times, painful—way. Most characters are white except Allegra’s best friend and her mother, who are Indigenous.

An emotionally moving portrayal of the effects grief has on a family. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5107-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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