A well-written, engaging exploration of the maxim, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Cut Paste Gone

A young girl with a magic pair of scissors makes a collage out of reality in Safran’s debut YA novel.

Mona adores her flamboyant, fun grandmother Rose, who lives in the apartment upstairs and always offers the young girl yummy treats and a sense of adventure. Life at home often centers on Mona’s sister, Violet, who’s two years older, and her anxious fears. When Rose decides to buy amateur collagist Mona a fancy, gold, bejeweled pair of scissors for her birthday, the consignment shop owner warns her to read the instructions and “never, ever use them when you’re angry.” But when Rose dies, Violet hides the purse holding Mona’s present. Mona later finds it, and she uses the scissors to make a collage expressing her frustration, wishing, among other things, that “VIOLET WOULD JUST GO AWAY!” The surreal results are at first amusing and gratifying; Rose comes back to life, the family acquires a butler named Jeeves, and chocolate cake is on constant offer. But soon events turn sinister—and Mona must work to restore the life she knows. Safran writes with sympathy about the grief, insecurities, and unfairness experienced by young tweens and teens. The book nicely portrays the close, important relationship between a grandparent and grandchildren; Mona’s sadness over Rose’s death is entirely relatable, and it gives emotional force to her use of the magic scissors. Safran’s characterizations are skillful, especially in her balanced portrait of the sisters. The younger girl’s envy of the attention her older sister receives will make sense to anyone with a troubled sibling, and Mona’s view of Violet’s anxious episodes is as humorous as it’s critical: “SPEW (a noun): a public yelling fit often triggered by dirt, grime, general disorder, food groups touching, funerals, regular life, being asked questions you don’t want to answer.” It’s part of Mona’s journey to appreciate how hard Violet must work to manage her anxiety. The author also builds tension well as she adds on spooky elements and ends the story with a satisfying resolution.

A well-written, engaging exploration of the maxim, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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