A by-the-numbers high school story with shallow characters and misplaced values.

SURVIVING HIGH SCHOOL

Vine star Pons crafts a high school novel with herself as protagonist.

Lele Pons is your typical social media star: pretty, quirky, insecure, and sensitive. She stumbles her way through high school by day and carves out an Internet presence for herself by night. When her parents transfer her from a small Catholic school to a large Miami public school, conspicuously blonde Latina Lele makes the best of things, acquiring a black friend, a mean-white-girl enemy, and a pretty-white-boy crush. Lele does her best to balance her school life with her escalating Internet fandom, one that explodes over the course of the school year. Pons and co-author de la Cruz craft an unremarkable narrative; the characters are all fairly one-note, and nothing really dramatic ever happens. Crushes blossom and wither while friendships deepen, but a new spoke is never added to that tired wheel. Pons uses the quick wit developed by her Vines to move things forward at a remarkable pace, constantly sprinkling in silly asides—as well as hashtags, Webspeak, and references to her Rapunzel-like hair. She puts an inordinate emphasis on the value of physical attractiveness, financial gain, and fame. Lele wants to be a famous actress, emphasis on famous, with little interest in theater or the acting craft, which may play well to her fans but will alienate her fellow aspiring thespians.

A by-the-numbers high school story with shallow characters and misplaced values. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2053-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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

NEVER FALL DOWN

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 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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