Seventh-grader Kay finds out more than she ever wanted to know about breast cancer in Grover’s first effort, a fine entry in the emerging novel-in-verse subgenre. In a free-verse chronicle of several months, the author introduces readers to a four-generation household of strong female characters: Kay, who is struggling with adjustment to junior high, her perfectionist accountant mother, her warm and loving Grandma Margie, and her Great-Gran Eula, another perfectionist who owns the Florida home where the women live. The first-person poems from Kay’s perspective follow Grandma Margie’s crisis from the initial discovery of a lump through biopsy, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and then through the final weeks until her death. The last poems deal with the funeral, with Kay’s anger at her grandmother’s death, and with the reactions of the three surviving women as they begin to cope with the death and with their changed family dynamics. Other poems show Kay’s growing maturity in coping with social issues in junior high and her questioning of her religious faith, juxtaposed with Grandma Margie’s unshakable faith. Many painful topics are addressed frankly: mastectomy, breast prostheses, the side effects of chemotherapy, and potential links between insecticides and breast cancer. The use of the poetic format allows short, distilled views of Kay’s world, while still offering all the character and plot development intrinsic to a novel for young adults. This compelling debut may offend some with its frankness, but many others will take it to heart for its many strengths. (author’s note, Web sites, bibliography) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-84419-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.


In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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