A lyrical but always unsettling, sometimes uncomfortable tale of medical experimentation in the 1960s South.

In this YA novel, a multiracial girl finds herself the subject of strange medical experiments in rural Alabama.

It’s the summer of 1968. Heat and drought have dried out the fields around Hyssop, where 12-year-old Margaret Ann Odom lives with her Black Cherokee mother, M’dear. Margaret Ann’s father, though she doesn’t know him, was White. One day, Claire Whitehurst, a White social worker from the just-opened Free Women’s Clinic, offers to enroll Margaret Ann in a program of “preventative medicine.” It involves weekly injections, and though M’dear doesn’t quite understand what they are for, she allows Margaret Ann to begin the treatment. Margaret Ann, for her part, is suspicious: “Why did this White woman think I wasn’t healthy? I thought I was healthy. I hadn’t had my monthlies yet, but I’d heard girls at school talk. Some had. Some hadn’t. ‘This about my monthlies?’ I cut my eyes under my brows to glance at my mother.” Margaret Ann is right to be wary, since none of the other kids in her class have to get the shots, and the clinic is housed in a long-abandoned building. The medicine, whatever it is, causes Margaret Ann to feel depressed, but the truth behind the treatment is even darker than she can imagine. The majority of the book is narrated by Margaret Ann, and Hunter gives her a poet’s eye for the world around her: “I once picked up an old burl out of the cow pasture and took it home. It had circles inside circles inside circles. Interesting how a mistake of nature can make something so beautiful. I understand now that’s my life. You live in the center of circles, each washing away from the other, like ripples in the cattle pond near the ridge.” Some readers may be turned off by the use of dialect and discussions surrounding skin color and hair texture, particularly given that the author is White. But the novel is based on a true story, one that many readers likely have never heard of, and Hunter tells it in a way that highlights the horrors.

A lyrical but always unsettling, sometimes uncomfortable tale of medical experimentation in the 1960s South.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-949711-82-0

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Bluewater Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2021


Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012


From the Montague Siblings series , Vol. 3

An enticing, turbulent, and satisfying final voyage.

Adrian, the youngest of the Montague siblings, sails into tumultuous waters in search of answers about himself, the sudden death of his mother, and her mysterious, cracked spyglass.

On the summer solstice less than a year ago, Caroline Montague fell off a cliff in Aberdeen into the sea. When the Scottish hostel where she was staying sends a box of her left-behind belongings to London, Adrian—an anxious, White nobleman on the cusp of joining Parliament—discovers one of his mother’s most treasured possessions, an antique spyglass. She acquired it when she was the sole survivor of a shipwreck many years earlier. His mother always carried that spyglass with her, but on the day of her death, she had left it behind in her room. Although he never knew its full significance, Adrian is haunted by new questions and is certain the spyglass will lead him to the truth. Once again, Lee crafts an absorbing adventure with dangerous stakes, dynamic character growth, sharp social and political commentary, and a storm of emotion. Inseparable from his external search for answers about his mother, Adrian seeks a solution for himself, an end to his struggle with mental illness—a journey handled with hopeful, gentle honesty that validates the experiences of both good and bad days. Characters from the first two books play significant secondary roles, and the resolution ties up their loose ends. Humorous antics provide a well-measured balance with the heavier themes.

An enticing, turbulent, and satisfying final voyage. (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291601-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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