An adequate portrait of an art-obsessed teen, but, unlike Vanessa, it doesn't stand out.

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MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE

A self-proclaimed artist learns lessons about friendship, thoughtfulness and the importance of having something to say.

Restless, exuberant and brightly colored in pink hair and rainbow eye shadow, Vanessa knows she's not like the other “zombie kids” at her Seattle high school. Living with her Grampie and her dockworker mother, who settled down after becoming pregnant with her as a teenager, Vanessa longs for freedom and adulthood and assumes those around her do too (she constantly insists her mother should go on more dates, for instance). Readers instantly see the hurt she causes, despite her justifications, when Vanessa crosses boundaries to give the people in her life what she thinks they want—outing her gay best friend or spilling the beans to her shy musician friend Holly's crush. Her desire for new, transformative experiences is clear as she falls in with an older artist crowd and makes dubious, impulsive choices involving an older boy, a fake ID and a pinup calendar. The device of an art teacher helping her realize deeper truths about herself and her art feels familiar, and the insinuation that dyeing one's hair pink is merely a ploy for attention seems more like an adult's assumption than a teen's experience.

An adequate portrait of an art-obsessed teen, but, unlike Vanessa, it doesn't stand out. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-84154-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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LOST IN THE RIVER OF GRASS

Thirteen-year-old Sarah’s new classmates at Glades Academy don’t welcome her—she’s there on scholarship, and her mother works in the school cafeteria. On a field trip to the Everglades, Sarah seizes the chance to get away by sneaking off on an airboat ride through the saw-grass marsh with the guide’s 15-year-old son, Andy, taking only her backpack, a camera and some mosquito spray. A stop at a remote fishing camp ends in disaster when the boat sinks, and they’re stranded, surrounded by alligators and snakes, with half a bottle of Gatorade and a can of SPAM. Andy knows what they’re up against, but Sarah refuses to believe that they must leave the tiny island to trudge the 10 miles back to land. Wildlife and vegetation are vividly described; Sarah’s fear is palpable in scenes of near-disaster, and readers will cheer when she and Andy make it safely out of the swamp after five days. However, the first-person narrative is uneven, marred by gaps that make it hard to fully visualize some situations, and there are too few transitions to support some rather sudden instances of closeness between Sarah and Andy. Rorby cleverly offers only subtle hints that Sarah is African-American and Andy is white until late in the story, adding depth to this survival story framed within the story of an outsider. (Adventure. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5685-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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An emotionally moving portrayal of the effects grief has on a family.

A GIRL IN THREE PARTS

Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Allegra is divided by a family at odds with each other.

Allegra’s mum died when she was 3, but she doesn’t know what caused her death or why it made her family stop speaking to each other. She just knows that they each love her differently, and she feels split in three ways trying to maintain relationships with each of them. Allegra lives at Number 23 with her Hungarian Jewish grandmother, Matilde, who is haunted by memories of the war and who runs a strict household. With Matilde she is Allegra. Her father, Rick, takes her surfing, and they have a good time together. But for reasons she doesn’t understand, he lives in the flat above Matilde’s garage; with him she’s Al Pal. Next door, at Number 25, lives her passionate Catholic grandmother, Joy, to whom she is Ally. When Allegra helps a friend and things go awry, their family secrets must be confronted. Set in 1970s Australia at the cusp of a cultural revolution, this is both a story of self-discovery and one of family healing. Debut author Daniel’s strength lies in the creation of complex characters; Allegra in particular operates from a sheltered existence and makes decisions, judgments, and mistakes in an authentic—and, at times, painful—way. Most characters are white except Allegra’s best friend and her mother, who are Indigenous.

An emotionally moving portrayal of the effects grief has on a family. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5107-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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