Underdeveloped writing collides with a too-familiar plot.

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I'LL BE HOME SOON

When 13-year-old Regan’s mother disappears, the girl is forced to fend for herself as she desperately tries to figure out whom she can trust.

It is not the first time her mother has gone away, but as the weeks roll by, Regan is fearful that she is gone for good. Hungry, frightened and tired, Regan must navigate the dangerous inner-city streets alone. Determined to find her mother, she finds shelter wherever she can, whether it is under a bridge or in a run-down squat. Regan dodges dangerous street people, hostile men who claim her mother has stolen from them, and even the police and social workers who want to lock her away in a group home. Gritty details paint the horrific landscape and give faces to the desperate people who populate this hidden world. The premise of Regan’s story has all the hallmarks of a wonderful study of resilience. Unfortunately, clunky prose and affected dialogue keep this story from rising above others with similar themes. Readers will quickly grow weary of the repetitive plot and flat characters. Regan, with her hopefulness and determination, is the only bright light in an otherwise gray landscape.

Underdeveloped writing collides with a too-familiar plot. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55380-180-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Ronsdale Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD

From the Tristan Strong series , Vol. 2

Tristan Strong is back in this sequel to Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (2019).

A month’s passed since rising eighth grader Tristan’s first adventure in Alke, the world where African American folktale heroes are gods who live alongside African deities. Tristan’s now an Anansesem, “a carrier and spreader of stories,” and after the Shamble Man, a new foe, kidnaps his grandmother and takes her back to Alke, he follows, determined to rescue her. Tristan heads off on an adventure that will challenge his reluctant hero-ness (realistically, this aspect of his character hasn’t changed) and force him to reckon with the truth: Though he saved Alke, he was also the reason Alke was in danger in the first place. Fans of the first book will cheer the return of old friends, like capable, reliable Ayanna; the ever quippy Gum Baby (who steals the show, as per usual); and cellphone-bound trickster Anansi, and appreciate the new characters. The ending is nothing short of earth-shattering, promising a fascinating next entry. Well-paced—just like the previous installment—this sequel focuses on themes such as the meaning of diaspora and the effects of trauma, making for a more nuanced and stronger story than the first. The human characters are Black with varying shades of brown skin.

Packs a punch. (map) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-04238-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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