Liliha, 12, is sent to the Kalaupapa Leprosy Colony on the island of Molokai toward the end of the 19th century. Life for most of the lepers is a dog-eat-dog existence with the strongest members in control of the distribution of the scant food, shelter, and care because there is no conscientious and caring superintendent. (Before religious leaders exemplified by Father Damien came to the island in 1873, basic human needs were absent except for the help of a few good souls.) When the occasional sailing craft arrives with supplies and new patients, only the strong are able to grab the food and distribute it as they see fit. Liliha, ever strong and inventive, develops methods to extend the meager supplies by fishing, carving bowls, spoons, and other items to trade. Eventually, she is victorious over her enemy, an older woman in an advanced stage of the disease, who has ruled the place with unbelievably cruel and destructive acts designed to cement her power. Since the groundwork is not well established, readers may wonder what causes Liliha to become a Christian, showing mercy and love—even to her enemy—at the conclusion. This could have been a stronger story had the characters of the good, especially the protagonist, not been quite so good, and the characters of the bad, not quite so bad. But the setting and the details of the terrible disease when there were no remedies except exclusion will hold readers, who will empathize with the characters and root for Liliha and her friends, although they know that she will die a terrible death. Contains a map (not seen), a list of Hawaiian words, and a full and interesting historical note. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23855-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002


The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009


It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

Close Quickview