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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006


A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains.

Myla and Peter step into the path of a gang when they unite forces to find Peter’s runaway brother, Randall.

As they follow the graffiti tags that Randall has been painting in honor of the boys’ deceased father, they uncover a sinister history involving stolen diamonds, disappearances, and deaths. It started long ago when the boys’ grandmother, a diamond-cutter, partnered with the head of the gang. She was rumored to have hidden his diamonds before her suspicious death, leaving clues to their whereabouts. Now everyone is searching, including Randall. The duo’s collaboration is initially an unwilling one fraught with misunderstandings. Even after Peter and Myla bond over being the only people of color in an otherwise white school (Myla is Indian-American; mixed-race Peter is Indian, African-American, and white), Peter can’t believe the gang is after Myla. But Myla possesses a necklace that holds a clue. Alternating first-person chapters allow peeks into how Myla, Peter, and Randall unravel the story and decipher clues. Savvy readers will put the pieces together, too, although false leads and red herrings are cleverly interwoven. The action stumbles at times, but it takes place against the rich backdrops of gritty New York City and history-laden Dobbs Ferry and is made all the more colorful by references to graffiti art and parkour.

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2296-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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