An atmospheric confection that will thrill YA readers.

STALKED

Gregory’s (My Darlin' Clementine, 2009, etc.) latest YA thriller features a young seamstress from Denmark who encounters a dangerous stranger on her journey to early 1900s America.

Fifteen-year-old Rikke Svendsen is down on her luck. Unfairly ousted from her comfortable position as seamstress to the queen of Denmark and then banished from the country, she makes her way to New York aboard a passenger ship. She hopes to reunite with family members in Racine, Wis. As an unaccompanied young woman, however, she needs sponsorship in order to successfully pass through the doors of Ellis Island. The family she connects with seems amiable—until the father makes unwanted advances on Rikke. Spurned, he becomes more and more obsessed with her, until she breaks away by cleverly eluding him and his family at the immigration station. She slowly settles into a life as a seamstress in New York’s Lower East Side, saving money for the train fare to Racine. Through letters from friends and family there, she learns that a mysterious man has arrived and has been asking about her. When inexplicable “accidents” lead to injuries and even the deaths of her loved ones, Rikke realizes the man from the boat is determined to find her, and he’ll harm anyone in his way. Rikke and her New York friends devise a cunning plan to lure him to New York—and justice. Gregory achieves a realistic, rich atmosphere with insightful details about the immigration process and New York’s tenements in the early 1900s. Rikke is a resourceful, intelligent protagonist, but she exhibits too few character flaws to be truly convincing. She displays a relatively small degree of the fear and excitement someone in her position must have felt, and readers may also be distanced by her rather quiet emotions, especially in relation to her suitor, Viggo. The story moves at a satisfyingly rapid, suspenseful pace, although the too-tidy denouement is a bit of a letdown. Upon finishing the book, readers will have enjoyed Rikke’s company, but they may also wish she’d left more of an impression.

An atmospheric confection that will thrill YA readers.

Pub Date: May 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1477434826

Page Count: 152

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2012

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Strangely stuffy and muted.

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN

The little-known story of the Black woman who supervised J. Pierpont Morgan’s storied library.

It's 1905, and financier J.P. Morgan is seeking a librarian for his burgeoning collection of rare books and classical and Renaissance artworks. Belle da Costa Greene, with her on-the-job training at Princeton University, seems the ideal candidate. But Belle has a secret: Born Belle Marion Greener, she is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard, and she's passing as White. Her mother, Genevieve, daughter of a prominent African American family in Washington, D.C., decided on moving to New York to live as White to expand her family’s opportunities. Richard, an early civil rights advocate, was so dismayed by Genevieve’s decision that he left the family. As Belle thrives in her new position, the main source of suspense is whether her secret will be discovered. But the stakes are low—history discloses that the career-ending exposure she feared never came. There are close calls. J.P. is incensed with her but not because of her race: She considered buying a Matisse. Anne Morgan, J.P.’s disgruntled daughter, insinuates that Belle has “tropical roots,” but Belle is perfectly capable of leveraging Anne’s own secrets against her. Leverage is a talent of Belle’s, and her ruthless negotiating prowess—not to mention her fashion sense and flirtatious mien—wins her grudging admiration and a certain notoriety in the all-White and male world of curators and dealers. Though instructive about both the Morgan collection and racial injustice, the book is exposition-laden and its dialogue is stilted—the characters, particularly Belle, tend to declaim rather than discuss. The real Belle left scant records, so the authors must flesh out her personal life, particularly her affair with Renaissance expert Bernard Berenson and the sexual tension between Belle and Morgan. But Belle’s mask of competence and confidence, so ably depicted, distances readers from her internal clashes, just as her veneer must have deterred close inquiry in real life.

Strangely stuffy and muted.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10153-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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