LIVES OF OUR OWN

A contrived, poorly constructed climax caps an anemic plot in this soapy tale of two teenagers struggling to make sense of personal, social, and racial relations in a small Georgia town. Kari can't explain, even to herself, why she puts a rock through African-American classmate Shawna's window, but the incident draws the pair together—especially after they learn that Kari's mother, Allison, and Shawna's father, Joe, have a history that's been hushed up. Meanwhile, Shawna's editorial in the school paper challenging the antebellum customs of the town's upcoming Old South Ball, and an ensuing letter in which an interracial couple, Marlon and Natalie, announce their intention to attend, stirs up an exclusive girls' club of which Kari is an increasingly unenthusiastic member. For reasons that are never clear, Joe and Allison won't talk about why they didn't graduate with their high-school class: Joe abruptly went to Chicago, and Allison was bustled off to relatives in Knoxville for six months. Shawna and Kari bolt to Knoxville, believing themselves to be searching for the half-sibling they never knew they had. Having pushed her characters to a fever pitch, Hewett (Soulfire, 1996) mercilessly bursts their balloon: Yes, Joe and Allison were found in a compromising situation, but there was no baby. The racial controversy over the ball is also summarily resolved; such haste combined with gaps in logic, fragmentary conversations, and a weak finish make for a patchy story at best. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-525-45959-6

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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