An engaging tale, featuring a protagonist who confronts unspeakable tragedy with grace and humor.

READ REVIEW

This is Not a Test

Carswell’s debut YA novel details a teenage girl’s recovery after her mother’s suicide.

Vancouver Island resident Beth is known at her high school as the girl who has epileptic seizures. Then, during spring break of her junior year, her mother kills herself, fating Beth to have a new label among her fellow students. As she deals with her own loss and confusion over why her parent would commit such an act, she must also help her younger sister, Amy, cope. At the same time, Beth realizes that her possessive, erratic boyfriend, Connor, is becoming abusive. Meanwhile, her narcissistic frenemy, Candice, tries to make Beth’s mother’s suicide about herself, and Beth finds that her other friend Fuzzy’s feelings for her aren’t strictly platonic. Her role in the spring musical becomes her salvation, but also a source of increasing confusion, as she finds that her co-star, Rudy, is everything she wants a boyfriend to be. A new body piercing and a crazy hair coloring notwithstanding, Beth strives to make all the right decisions. This engrossing novel confronts painful truths head-on, which makes it impossible to put down. Beth is a realistic teenager who makes mistakes, including giving Connor more chances than he deserves or are advisable for her own safety. Indeed, Carswell’s finely drawn young characters all behave just as teenagers should, with the exceptions of Rudy and Fuzzy, who are both so mature and caring that readers may wonder how Beth could choose one over the other. Only Beth’s father is a shadowy figure, as he merely makes dinner and occasionally tells Beth to leave her bedroom door open when a boy visits.

An engaging tale, featuring a protagonist who confronts unspeakable tragedy with grace and humor.

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-9008-8

Page Count: 390

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and...

White Tiger Legend

Set presumably in 12th-century China, an action-packed YA read about a young Shaolin monk named Zi who embarks on a harrowing journey of self-discovery after his temple and everything he ever knew are destroyed.

With the Gathering of the Ways quickly approaching, the entire population of the famed Shaolin Temple is frenetically preparing for the annual gathering of elite warriors from distant kingdoms who come together to test their abilities against the temple’s best kung fu practitioners. But when a cunning, morally bankrupt fighter known as the Red Dragon defeats the temple’s champion (who happens to be Zi’s older brother, Hu Yuan) and razes the temple in search of its mystical secrets, young Zi is forced to begin the Great Journey—essentially a treacherous quest of enlightenment that may ultimately reveal the greatest secret of the temple. On the quest, Zi meets and befriends a diversity of characters (like Bok Choi the grasshopper and a mysterious lady of the river named Auntie) who not only help the young Buddhist monk survive, but offer him wise advice as well. While the character of Zi is undeniably endearing, as is his insect sidekick, the story isn’t without minor flaws. The text is littered with grammatical errors (“Well stand down soldier. Watch how a ladies mantis goes about getting the goods son”), some of the fight scenes drag and become monotonous, and at points, the metaphysical nature of kung fu arguably goes too deep for the average reader (the sequence where the author connects chakras with the digestion of various foods, for example).

An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and spiritual philosophical undertones.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9929738-0-3

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Kory Juul Enterprises Corp

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

The Lie They Told

A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

When a teenage girl in 1925 Chicago kills her violent stepfather, her mother takes the blame in this YA novel.

Carola Pawlak, 15, living in Chicago’s Polish Town, is shy, studious, and badly dressed, although other girls sometimes say her looks are “promising.” She dreams of becoming a writer and has few friends other than Stan Carlson, a handsome Roma boy. She and her sweet mother, Maria, walk on eggshells around Carola’s angry, explosive stepfather, Henry Jaworski. That is, until a fight one day in which Carola, trying to protect her mother, strikes back. He attempts to destroy a prized silver amulet that Stan gave her—but it has a hidden knife, and Carola plunges it into Henry’s chest. Maria confesses to the crime, forcing a promise from Carola to go along, and is arrested. Unexpected help then arrives: Louise Lazaar, “the Chicago Tribune’s leading ‘sob sister.’ ” Sensing a story, Lazaar brings Carola to see T.J. O’Malley, Chicago’s best criminal lawyer, who takes her mother’s case. Carola gets a makeover—bobbed hair, cosmetics, new clothes—and Lazaar dubs her and Maria the “Mother-Daughter Angels,” writing stories such as, “‘She Did It for Me,’ Says Angel Daughter.” But Maria’s still in danger from other prisoners, and Carola learns that Stan’s in trouble for giving her the mysterious amulet. Arbeiter (A Mouton Coat: The Hunt for a Mother’s Story, 2013, etc.) offers a sympathetic YA heroine who’s also conventional in that she doesn’t feel beautiful but is, and she wants to be a writer. Her romance with Stan is sweet and provides a little heat, and Carola has a chance to play the rescuer instead of the rescuee, which is unusual in the YA genre. The 1920s setting is also vivid; Arbeiter gives a well-rounded sense of the era’s highlights, such as flappers and actor Rudolph Valentino, and challenges, such as crime and injustice.

A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

Pub Date: June 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938812-59-0

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more