THE EXCHANGE STUDENT

Budding zoologist Daria lives in 2094, 70 years after an environmental crash; the near-extinction of many species of animals puts her in the enviable position of helping replenish Earth by raising creatures in a home zoo. Her family is cooperative (if not always agreeable) and financially able to help her feed and house llamas, hornbills, and binturongs. When her mother announces that Fen, an exchange student from the planet Chela, will be staying with them, Daria wonders if the tall grey alien will fit in. Fen, however, loves animals to an extraordinary degree, and Daria gains a companion and a sympathetic helper, who is oddly taciturn on the subject of Chelan fauna. Gilmore (Jason and the Bard, 1993) charts this story carefully, crafting the awkward nuances that give rise to cultural—or in this case, interplanetary—misunderstandings. Fen is a convincing alien; he’s humanoid, but markedly different from Daria, and his propensity for changing color with his emotions leads to an intriguing scene in which he tries to communicate with a chameleon. Underlying the growing friendship and understanding between Earthlings and Chelans is the slowly revealed horror of what has happened on Chela—an environmental disaster as devastating as a nuclear blast. Gilmore shows that Earth might end, not with a bang, but without a bleat, meow, bark, or chirp. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-57511-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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THUNDERSHINE

TALES OF METAKIDS

In a well-written gambol through weirdness, Skinner (The Wrecker, 1995, etc.) offers four highly imaginative short stories about young people with supernatural powers. In the first story, Jenny can change the world, and change history, by changing the maps she draws. The narrator, Laurie, knows Jenny is out of control, and when Jenny creates a second sun and splits the earth in two, Laurie is ready to act. The second story is about a world where people “bop”—instant travel just by thinking of a location—instead of walking from one place to another. Mae, however, either can’t bop, or won’t, a prospect that intrigues the narrator. In the third tale, Meredith, who has a supernatural connection with the planet Pluto, and Dexter, who is able to spray-paint with his mind, unite their powers. In the fourth and longest story, Jake finds himself deeply in love with a religious girl, Louise, and both of them are tempted by the powers a metahuman, Nina, has bestowed upon them. All four stories will captivate readers, and may even get them thinking about deeper ideas. Skinner’s often humorous portrayal of young adolescents is on target, and while the stories resemble writing exercises, lacking the sustained, pulse-pounding poetic turns of his novels, they are consistently entertaining. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80556-X

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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BEYOND PARADISE

During WWII in the Philippines, American citizens trapped in the war zone were imprisoned for years by the Japanese, events that provide the context for Hertenstein’s first novel, which focuses on one 14-year-old, Louise. Louise’s minister father is captured in Manila, leaving her and her weak-willed mother to face life alone with other Baptist missionaries on an outlying island. The colony escapes into the hills for a time, but is discovered and interned in a concentration camp. Eventually they are moved to Manila, and later to the notorious camp, Los Banos. One of Louise’s friends is discovered with a radio and executed; food is scarce; people are dying. Hertenstein writes with sensitivity, although the story is often disjointed, e.g., the news that the colony has been taken prisoner comes in a letter Louise writes to her sister, instead of through Louise’s natural-sounding first-person narration, which filled the first 60 pages. When the Japanese disappear from the camp, Louise, now almost 18, rejoices that finally there will be “No bowing, no bayonets,” yet bowing and bayonets, major features of Japanese concentration camps, have hardly been mentioned. A first work that is shakily compelling, often uplifting, and certainly promising. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16381-5

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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