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


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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Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.


A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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