Williams (ABC Kids, below, etc.) takes readers back to a squalid, brutal 15th century for this heavy tale of a family tormented by its dreadful occupation. Because Lily's father and mother are the local lord’s executioners, she and her parents must live outside the town walls, banned from the church, feared, and shunned by all. Ironically, these killers are also healers, making ends meet between executions by providing occasional furtive visitors with herbal poultices and remedies. Lily’s father takes refuge in drink; she and her mother in each other and in caring for injured wild animals. Then the fragile equilibrium that Lily has built shatters as, in succession, her mother sickens and dies, peer pressure destroys a budding friendship with a town child, and her naïve notion that criminals automatically deserve what they get unravels when she witnesses horrible punishments meted out for trivial offenses, then learns that her own mother escaped hanging by marrying her father. She leaves in the end, hoping to escape the stigma. Despite a contrived final hint that Lily has made a new and happier life for herself, this brief story is so weighed down by its tormented cast and narrow setting that it's more akin to John Morressey’s grim Juggler (1996) than Karen Cushman’s Midwife’s Apprentice (1995). (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8050-6234-3

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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From the Lorien Legacies series , Vol. 1

If it were a Golden Age comic, this tale of ridiculous science, space dogs and humanoid aliens with flashlights in their hands might not be bad. Alas... Number Four is a fugitive from the planet Lorien, which is sloppily described as both "hundreds of lightyears away" and "billions of miles away." Along with eight other children and their caretakers, Number Four escaped from the Mogadorian invasion of Lorien ten years ago. Now the nine children are scattered on Earth, hiding. Luckily and fairly nonsensically, the planet's Elders cast a charm on them so they could only be killed in numerical order, but children one through three are dead, and Number Four is next. Too bad he's finally gained a friend and a girlfriend and doesn't want to run. At least his newly developing alien powers means there will be screen-ready combat and explosions. Perhaps most idiotic, "author" Pittacus Lore is a character in this fiction—but the first-person narrator is someone else entirely. Maybe this is a natural extension of lightly hidden actual author James Frey's drive to fictionalize his life, but literature it ain't. (Science fiction. 11-13)



Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-196955-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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In a clumsy take on a well-used premise (see also the review of Winifred Morris's Liar, below), an at-risk city teenager is sent to his country relatives for attitude correction. To get Taylor away from bad friends, his mother dispatches him to the mountain home of his great-aunt and great-uncle near tiny Pandora, Texas. Although he carries a switchblade and shoplifts, Taylor makes an unconvincing juvie-in-training; despite failing English, he sends off long, glib letters to his friends—and vicious hate mail to his mother—describing how stupid and boring everything is, meanwhile pitching in with a will at the local grist mill and general store. He spends most of his wages on gifts for the children of an abusive, itinerant ``post-cutter'' and tree-poacher, teaching them to read in exchange for shooting lessons from the eldest of them, Jesse Lee. In a lachrymose climax, Taylor's mother shows up and confesses that she shot his father in a hunting accident, and Taylor owns up to a prank that left its victim in a coma. Garland (Cabin 102, 1995, etc.) only outlines the ending: Taylor is sentenced to a term of community service in a teen literacy center, spends his spare time at his victim's bedside, and gets an uplifting letter from Jesse Lee. An intriguing supporting cast goes to waste in a weak, uneven story. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-200661-3

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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