Timely subject matter and an adequate romance, but nothing super.

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BLAZE (OR LOVE IN THE TIME OF SUPERVILLAINS)

Geeky girl with absent father and quirky hobby meets unsuitable boy, then realizes Mr. Right has been under her nose all along.

Blaze's self-centered father, a caricature, left the family to become an actor, leaving her with only her name (from Ghost Rider's Johnny Blaze) and a love for classic Marvel Comics. Now, Blaze spends her time ferrying her 13-year-old brother Josh and his farting, breast-ogling, gay-joke–making friends to and from soccer practice. She has a crush on Mark, Josh's soccer coach, but their relationship fails to progress until Blaze's friend snaps a picture of Blaze trying on lingerie and sends it to Mark's phone. After a confusing and pressure-filled sexual encounter and Mark's subsequent brushoff, Mark posts the half-naked photo on clunkily named Facebook stand-in FriendsPlace, and it goes viral. The resultant bullying is harsh but believable, and it's satisfying to see Blaze channeling her hurt and anger into making comics and redecorating her Superturd of a minivan. Less impressive, however, are some of Blaze's asides to the reader (“Stuart is one of only three black students in our school....I feel somewhat hip and urban having him here at my house”) and the frequent subtle digs at girls being high-maintenance, stalkers, actual sluts and brainwashing feminists.

Timely subject matter and an adequate romance, but nothing super. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7348-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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Fishing, fighting and girls make this a real guy’s-guy story in which a fairly solid plot is marred by overwriting,...

FAST HANDS

A coming-of-age story set on an Alaskan fishing boat.

The title is a wordplay on “fast” as “quick” and the nautical use of “fast,” meaning to make secure—and a clever plot summation. Sixteen-year-old Augustus has fast hands. They can play percussion, and they can damage. Their ability to damage has given him a choice: go to juvenile detention or crew on his uncle’s commercial halibut-fishing boat in Alaska. Gus chooses the sea, ignorant of the fishing boat’s 19-hour workday. Eventually he acclimates and becomes proud of doing a man’s work. He also learns more about his scattered family and does some rethinking about a friend he betrayed back home. Gus’ narration is often inconsistent in both tone and storyline and relies heavily on telling rather than showing. The commercial fishing jargon will confuse any readers not completely familiar with that trade. Female characters are simply stereotypes. Gus’ mother cries. The restaurant owner is motherly, and the love interest is a lap-dancer (briefly) who wants to be a singer, knows self-defense and has no problem shedding her clothes for a hot-springs soak with the guys—an adolescent male fantasy if there ever was one.

Fishing, fighting and girls make this a real guy’s-guy story in which a fairly solid plot is marred by overwriting, confusing jargon and one-dimensional female characters. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-935347-31-6

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Epicenter Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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The pivotal moment this Jamaican import describes deserves a more artful vehicle for the telling.

GIRLCOTT

A historical novel examines racial tensions in mid-20th-century Bermuda.

Desma Johnson is a black Bermudian girl who is a week away from her 16th birthday. Growing up in a segregated Bermuda in 1959, she’s a brilliant scholar, having earned the Empire Scholarship, beating out many other “coloured” and white students in the Commonwealth. Her father’s gift to her was to be his treating her entire class to the movies. But this is where Desma’s troubles begin. Rumors of a boycott on the island begin circulating. The Progressive Group, said to be initiators of the boycott, seeks to end racial segregation in Bermuda, and they plan to do so by boycotting the movie theaters. Desma is upset by this development, but as the anxieties around the boycott build, she becomes aware of the racial tensions that she had previously been sheltered from in her paradise home of Bermuda. She comes to see a new, less favorable side of neighbors who were once friendly and supportive and realizes the harshness of the shadow that racial divisions cast over the island. In frequently expository prose, Maxwell tells a simple tale of a moment in a country’s history that is often erased. One-dimensional characters, jerky dialogue, and an awkward and excessive use of metaphors often take away from the significance of the revolution that should be at the center of this story.

The pivotal moment this Jamaican import describes deserves a more artful vehicle for the telling. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-976-8267-08-5

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Blouse & Skirt Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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