Give this quite literally impressionistic portrait of a slice of the South after the Civil War to readers with patience and...

RIVER MUSIC

Multiple perspectives tell pieces of the story of Rainy, a 10-year-old girl found as an infant.

She lives with Will Barnes, her foster father, who found her snuggled in the crook of a tree, and his son, Ben. Nearby lives Gabrielle, a New Orleans native who gave birth to Rainy while her husband, Jared, was away fighting the Civil War. Among others who fill out the cast are Marie Bijoux, Gabrielle’s mixed-race half sister; her husband, Pondichéry; and Robert Ray, an elderly neighbor who saw Marie Bijoux put Rainy in the tree. A mysterious African-American girl who drops a scattering of jewelry for Rainy to find sets off a sequence of events that reveals the tangled connections among the members of the community, both white and black. Sauerwein’s writing is as lush as the Spanish moss draping Southern live oak trees, but this slight novella doesn’t do it justice. Amid the multitude of perspectives, no clear protagonist emerges, nor is there much of a plot. What there is, though, is a kaleidoscopically effective vision of disparate, messy, complicated humanity.

Give this quite literally impressionistic portrait of a slice of the South after the Civil War to readers with patience and a love of language. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60898-186-1

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Namelos

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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THE ACADÉMIE

This peculiar hybrid of fact-checked historical fiction and breathless bodice-ripper chronicles the romantic flings of four teens in 1799 France.

Eliza Monroe, daughter of future U.S. president James Monroe, arrives at a Paris finishing school where she’s befriended by fellow pupils Hortense de Beauharnais (daughter of Joséphine, stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte) and Caroline Bonaparte (sister of Napoleon): beautiful, scheming frenemies. This promising, frothy-but-fun scenario is overshadowed by a less-successful melodrama. Madeleine de Pourtant, secretly engaged to Hortense’s brother, is the daughter of Gloriande, a star of the Comédie Française. Formerly enslaved in Martinique, Gloriande—drug-addicted, abusive, mentally unstable, a sexual omnivore discarded by her white aristocratic husband—resurrects the toxic “tragic mulatto” stereotype, as does Madeleine herself. The plot veers unsteadily from accounts of student entertainments, girlish crushes and romantic intrigues to Gloriande’s depraved brutality and Madeleine’s misery. Throughout, narrators Hortense, Eliza and Madeleine keep the emotional temperature constant, reacting to overheard gossip, the discovery of admirers and General Bonaparte’s power plays with the same feverish excitement. Dunlap has clearly done her history homework, but characterization is sketchy and the noisy plot not always credible. Annemarie Selinko’s classic historical romance Désirée (1953) offers what’s missing: compelling characters who made, and were made by, the world they lived in.

Pass. (Historical romance. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-586-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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WHEN I WAS JOE

When 14-year-old Ty witnesses a brutal murder involving neighborhood thugs, he and his mom are put into a witness-protection program in a small town far away from their East London home. Now named Joe, Ty enters a new school a year behind and finds himself haunted by his past and torn between two girls: Ellie, a physically disabled teen who trains able-bodied runners, and her sister, Ashley. Despite lots of Briticisms and the occasional longwinded spells of narration, David pens a mostly fast-moving page-turner. Her characterizations feel mostly fully fleshed, and their dialogue rings true. The staunchly un-Americanized text results in some odd, culturally specific references that could confuse some readers unfamiliar with the milieu: Kissing Ashley makes Ty's body sizzle like sausages in a pan, for instance. The contemplative pages within the blood-spattered cover may disappoint readers more drawn to gore than to the self-reflection the experience renders in Ty. However, if teens can move past these speed bumps, they’ll find a complex, engaging read about a boy starting a new life by escaping his past. (Thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84580-131-9

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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