It is far beyond the emotional understanding of the usual picture-book audience and ultimately without substance or purpose...

READ REVIEW

I AM THOMAS

"March to the beat of your own drummer and never look back," appears to be the theme of this picture book for teens.

Thomas resents and defies family, teachers and peers, whether they are asking him to keep clean, do his homework or show respect. He hides behind his headphones as they deliver accusations and predict his failure, but he offers nothing as an alternative. He interprets cultural pressures that urge him to join the military or to vote or to embrace religion as demands to “do as we say, think like us, be like us.” This mantra appears frequently, sometimes shouting at readers in large bold letters and sometimes hiding in gray beneath other text. Gleeson’s spare, terse syntax is woven within and around Greder’s stark, rather vicious, gray-and-black illustrations that variously fill the pages or are scattered in panels. Thomas is depicted only in the final pages, drawn in lightly colored hues, first surrounded by childhood toys and last seen heading for a bus, presumably leaving home with destination and future unknown. All of this is way beyond teenage angst or even a search for one’s passion or raison d’etre. The overall mood of the piece is one of intense, unremitting anger.

It is far beyond the emotional understanding of the usual picture-book audience and ultimately without substance or purpose for older readers. Dark, bitter and disturbing. (Picture book. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-74237-333-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort.

THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH

Tragedy hovers over a blossoming romance.

Brazilian-American Sebastian “Bash” Alvaréz is just trying to get by when he meets the nerdy, white Birdie Paxton. The two spark up some romantic fire, but disaster quickly strikes. Late one night, Bash and his ne’er-do-well pal “Wild” Kyle are driving erratically (Kyle is at the wheel) and slam right into Birdie’s baby brother, Benny. The boys flee the scene, while Benny slips into a coma and the town begins to hunt for the perpetrators of the hit-and-run. Bash keeps his secret from Birdie as they grow closer, and readers will roll their eyes at the excessive misery. The author gives Bash a dying mother to balance out the equation, but the choice overloads the devastation factor. With everything emotional and awful and crazy and turned up to 11, nothing really sticks out. The two moping, guilt-ridden protagonists are drawn well enough—they alternate narration—but seem to be stuck in a narrative hell bent on getting readers to cry. Secondary characters are poorly sketched, given no interior life, and merely activated to interact with Birdie and Bash. The novel’s end is disproportionately sunny and hopeful, giving readers tonal whiplash. A last-minute Hail Mary act gets the teens out of the narrative corner, but it feels spectacularly tacked-on.

A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11622-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Carrick (Melanie, 1996, etc.) sensitively explores the pain of a parent’s death through the eyes, feelings, and voice of a nine-year-old boy whose world turns upside down when his father becomes terminally ill with cancer. Through a fictional reminiscence, the story explores many of the issues common to children whose parents are ill—loss of control, changes in physical appearance and mental ability, upsets in daily routine, experiences of guilt and anger, the reaction of friends, and, most of all, a fear of the unknown. Although the book suffers from a pat ending and the black-and-white sketches emphasize the bleakness of the topic, this title is a notch above pure bibliotherapy and will fill a special niche for children struggling to deal with the trauma of parental sickness and death. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-84151-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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