RABBLE STARKEY

For Parable Ann (Rabble) and her mother, Sweet Hosanna, her sixth-grade year is a time of growth and change. Sweet Ho was 14 when she ran off with Ginger Starkey; he left her the next year, when Rabble was a month old. Now she's been caring for the Bigelows for four years, and it seems like a first true home. Veronica Bigelow, also 12, is Rabble's best friend, almost a sister. Then Mrs. Bigelow, deeply depressed since four-year-old Gunther's birth, erupts into frightening, bizarre behavior and is institutionalized; while she's away, the little family that's left enjoys peaceful, joyous times; Phil Bigelow reads aloud in the evening and treats the two girls as though they were both his daughters. As the year progresses, the girls take responsibility for helping the cantankerous old woman who lives alone next door; the obnoxious local bully shows signs of blossoming into Veronica's first beau; Sweet Ho goes back to school and does so well she decides to get a college degree, and narrator Rabble decides to tidy up her own grammar (a neat stylistic transition on Lowry's part). But although Rabble has surprised Phil and Sweet Ho in a tender kiss, when Mrs. Bigelow is able to come home, Sweet Ho decides to move on—both she and Rabble have more growing to do, more things in store. Lowry, with six Anastasias and several other fine books to her credit, is adept at portraying the nuances of relationships and emotions. Here she presents a lively cast of characters in an unusual plot, skillfully handled.

Pub Date: April 27, 1987

ISBN: 0395436079

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1987

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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