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Dan Inagaki is tired of being labeled “Oriental” and equally tired of the pressure from his parents to be the perfect Japanese-American son. Dan’s pals Eddie, Frank, and Jerry all have their own takes on coping with the prejudices and stereotypes within and outside their community in 1970s Seattle. The mixture of races at Beacon Hill High is all in that slow move to political consciousness that epitomized the decade, but Dan feels he and his friends are barely waking up. With the example of “black power” he tries to take some actions for change. Mochizuki (Passage to Freedom, not reviewed, etc.) makes the time period vivid with mentions of the music, drugs, hair styles, clothing, and, of course, the Vietnam War. Successful at portraying the boy’s impatience with their labels, Dan is less successfully shown as beginning his revolt against the assumptions of those around him. Throughout, he longs for the attention of Janet, whose beauty and style make her beyond reach, especially given his inarticulate longings. Despite her hints of being interested and the flirtatiousness of others, sex barely exists in the story. The flavor is highly autobiographical, and indeed, Mochizuki grew up in Seattle during this time period, and has commented on his own struggle with prejudice. Perhaps it is the veil of fiction that makes this episodic narrative seem distant from the character’s inner turmoil. On the other hand, it is perhaps Mochizuki’s closeness to the people and events that makes it seem more of a recitation of painful memories that even time and distance haven’t softened. Beginning and ending with a family dinner at a Japanese restaurant, the story offers little closure for the characters beyond Dan’s own reflections of hope for change. Lifelike and true to that most befuddling of times. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-26749-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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