The characters’ unhappiness and hopes will resonate with many readers.

READ REVIEW

PICTURE ME

Three middle school girls, loosely connected by their various roles in a school bullying incident, narrate the stories of their lives.

Krista stops attending school and develops a dangerous addiction to diet pills after mean-girl Chelsea posts unflattering photos of Krista around their school. Frustrated by the school’s lack of visible advocacy for Krista, her sole friend, Tessa, creates a series of posters that highlight Krista’s talents—and her absence. Tessa’s campaign successfully engages the school community, providing Krista with much-needed support. Interspersed with the scenes related to bullying are explorations of each girl’s life outside of school: Krista and her father’s reliance on fast food while her mother works, Tessa’s grief over her father’s death during military service in Afghanistan, and Chelsea’s involvement with an abusive drug dealer in an attempt to fill the emotional void created by her selfish mother. Unfortunately, these girls sometimes feel like stock characters, but they do so only because they so accurately represent the reality of many teens’ lives. Middle school readers, in particular, will connect with multiple moments in the story, which ultimately offers some hope that Krista will recover with support from friends and health professionals. Chelsea’s fate is much darker and includes a frightening scene suggesting she is being sexually exploited by the drug dealer.

The characters’ unhappiness and hopes will resonate with many readers. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4594-0509-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: James Lorimer

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced.

THE ALWAYS WAR

For the past 75 years, Tessa’s nation has been at war—a war that has no end in sight.

Tessa lives in a community of weary people, visibly crushed by endless years of combat. They are numb; war is commonplace. But when a local boy receives an award for bravery—the nation’s highest—it lifts the city. Everyone, especially Tessa, desperately needs a hero. But Gideon shocks the town by refusing the honor. He declares himself a coward and runs away. He has killed more than 1,000 people; there is no honor in that. But that’s what war is, isn’t it? Killing the enemy is necessary. Gideon infuriates Tessa, but she is inexplicably curious as well. She follows him and ends up on a plane, with Gideon steering it straight toward the enemy line. He hopes to apologize, to atone for his mistakes, but what he and Tessa (along with a stowaway orphan named Dek) find when they open the plane’s door changes the plan dramatically. This dystopian drama examines the human aspect of war, and also how technology may redefine war in the future. In line with that tension, it is difficult to pinpoint which character grows the most in the narrative—Tessa or the computer.

If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced. (Dystopia. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9526-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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