Romano (The Beetle And Me, p. 638) uses a nonlinear narrative and multiple points of view to paint a challenging, perspicuous character portrait. Clinging stubbornly to the illusion that her elementary school clique hasn’t left her behind for new interests and alliances, tough, bossy Janine leads a solitary life, standing alone at the bus stop in the morning, shoehorning her way into conversations at school, and poking around a marshy old mill pond in her free time. For an assignment designed to sharpen observational skills, Janine opts to keep a record of herself—unaware that she is also being watched by Eric, a new classmate with the same assignment, a broken leg, and a ready video camera. Although the cast is large enough to cause occasional confusion, Romano’s teenagers reveal themselves without resorting to tedious self-analysis. Janine, whose utter lack of social skills will not win much sympathy from readers initially, comes to realize that there are other ways to communicate besides browbeating, and shows her mettle in a genuinely frightening climax, courageously (if foolishly) launching a furious verbal attack on a fisherman who has been masturbating openly at the isolated pond. In a compelling show of solidarity, neighbors and police race to back her up, led by Eric, who catches the whole encounter on tape. Unflinching, well told, rich in character. (Fiction. 13+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16517-6

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999


Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful...

Almond (Skellig, 1999) spins teenagers of very different backgrounds and experience into a whirl of ghosts and dreams, stories-within-stories, joy, heartache, and redemption.

In order to be able to care for his newly widowed grandfather, Kit has moved with his parents to the town of Stoneygate, perched in desolate decline on top of a maze of abandoned coal mines. He is soon drawn to follow wild, unstable, aptly named John Askew into a game called “Death” that leaves him sealed up in a tunnel; Kit emerges from the darkness with images of children and others killed in the mines flickering at the edge of his sight, and a strange, deep affinity for Askew. Inspired by Askew’s brutal family life, and gifted with a restless, brilliant imagination, Kit begins a prehistoric quest tale involving two lost children—a story that takes on a life of its own. Setting his tale in a town where the same family names appear on both mailboxes and tombstones, and where dark places are as common as sad memories, Almond creates a physical landscape that embodies the emotional one through which his characters also move, adding an enriching symbolic layer by giving acts and utterances the flavor of ritual.

Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful story is reminiscent of Alan Garner’s Stone Book quartet. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 7, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32665-3

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999


A teenager finds his way out from overwhelming grief in this poignant story from Hawes. Franklin takes his funny, beloved classmate Rosey Mishimi’s death in a car crash so hard that six months later he’s still mired in depression, walled off from his mother, therapist, and friends, filling his journal with present-tense memories. Then Rosey reappears, almost her old bubbly self but insubstantial, invisible to everyone else—except, perhaps, her dying Japanese grandmother. Is she a ghost, or just a figment? While he doesn’t entirely rule out the latter, Franklin is eager to have Rosey back on any terms, despite the understandable dismay of those around him. In the end, it doesn’t matter; Rosey fades away, but slowly enough to give Franklin a chance to say goodbye, to understand that she will always be with him, and to accept the fact that he still has a life to live. Hawes keeps Rosey’s exact nature ambiguous without being coy; that, along with the distinct characters and a caring supporting cast, make this a thoughtful variation on the often-explored theme of coping with loss. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8027-8685-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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