HOLD ME TIGHT

An unrelenting string of bad experiences related in brief poems, this is another issue-oriented story by Grover. Essie’s father leaves the family abruptly and unexpectedly. Her mother is pregnant and unable to work, so money troubles loom, along with the shock and hurt that Essie, her mother, and her younger brother feel. Then Essie’s classmate Chris disappears, kidnapped by a stranger in a pick-up truck. Finally, to add to Essie’s misery, fear and self-doubt, an old family friend assaults her. Essie’s first-person, present-tense narration offers readers an intimate, if narrow, view of events. Unfortunately, the narrative isn’t always convincing—would a contemporary child, for example, truly not be aware of French kissing, at least as a concept? In addition, there are problems with the flow of the text; line breaks often seem arbitrary, rather than emphasizing or enhancing meaning. Essie and her family do find ways to connect with friends, new and old, who help them to cope. Whether readers will hang on long enough to appreciate the positive ending is an open question. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-689-85248-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE BIG GAME OF EVERYTHING

Twelve-year-old Onion Jock’s grandfather made a fortune inventing a golf-course–cleaning contraption and now runs his own 13-hole course, his barber father rebels against the system by discouraging haircuts and his brother is a finance-obsessed pugilist. When well-monied individuals from Grampus’s past arrive, Jock realizes that his odd family relationships are more twisted than he thought. With little more than a brogue pronunciation as a clue, readers are left to guess at Jock’s geographical location, which creates a rarely bridged emotional gap. Jock’s narrative disposition is reminiscent of Christopher from Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003), but Jock’s own behavioral discrepancies have no apparent underlying causes. Moments of genuine humor shine, but most of the tale’s message—of the burden of possessions—seems better suited for a younger audience than the one it apparently aims for. Andi Watson’s Clubbing (2007) blends oddball humor and golf much more successfully. This uneven mixture of relationships and sports is a bogey for the usually reliable Lynch. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074034-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more