BEFORE I FALL

When your novel’s heroine opens the story as a popular, mean highschooler, the story will be one of two things: a paean to Dolce & Gabbana or a tale of redemption. Sam’s story is of the latter kind: a Groundhog Day–style repeated day she must relive until she gets it right. With each repeat, she changes something in her relationships—to her family, to the cruelty of her queen-bee friends, to her lecherous boyfriend, to the hot math teacher and to the countless nerds, dorks and freaks she’s always abused or ignored. If she can just get it right, Sam thinks, she’ll be freed from her loop and can move on with her life. Within this predictable framework Oliver builds a quietly lyrical story of selfhood and friendship, avoiding the obvious paths out of the time loop. Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day character used his repeated day to learn French; Sam, more valuably, learns that life’s composed of “little gaps and jumps and stutters that can never be reproduced.” Unexpectedly rich. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-172680-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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