CHARLY'S EPIC FIASCOS

A rough-around-the-edges road-trip story with a heart of gold.

Charly lives in the small town of Belvidere, Ill., with her younger sister and a mother who regularly insults her, yells at her and steals the money Charly is saving to pay the household bills. With her job at a neighborhood diner, Charly has saved almost enough to buy a phone she's been wanting for years. Then she discovers her mother has taken the cash she's stashed in her room, and it's the last straw. One bus ticket later, Charly and one week's wages are headed to New York City, where she hopes to stay with her aunt and audition for the cast of a new reality TV show. Charly's adventures range from harrowing (near-homelessness in Chicago) to heartwarming (rescuing and keeping a puppy) to scatological (an incident with a laxative tea). Her friends and chosen family serve as a strong and warm support network, even from afar. Charly's naiveté often lands her in dangerous situations, but her determination and her willingness to take risks propel her onward. A lengthy introductory section before the road trip begins may deter some readers, but those who stick it out will be rewarded.

Just enough realism to be believable—and plenty of wish fulfillment, too. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7582-6358-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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