An intriguing concept overtaken by thin characters and poor pacing.

PRETEND SHE'S HERE

Nearly a year after the death of her best friend, Lizzie, 15-year-old Emily is abducted by Lizzie’s parents to fill the void in their lives.

Emily wakes up in Maine, far from her Connecticut home, to find her hair dyed black and her eyes changed to green by contacts, making her look just like Lizzie. Lizzie’s mother tells her that as long as she cooperates, no harm will come to her or her family. Good behavior earns her a television and meals upstairs. Bad behavior means starvation and isolation. Emily begins to play along, determined to keep her family safe while at the same time finding a way to escape. But with Lizzie’s mother, father, and sister always watching, she fears she will be trapped in this nightmare forever. Then she meets Casey, a musically gifted boy who is legally blind. Together they come up with a plan to help Emily escape her prison. In this psychological thriller that studies the depths of grief, Emily’s empathy for her kidnappers keeps the sensationalism to a minimum by personalizing the betrayal. A preponderance of backstory slows the narrative and deflates the tension. Ultimately this is a story about love and loss threaded through with moments of a tense thriller. All main characters are Irish-American Catholics.

An intriguing concept overtaken by thin characters and poor pacing. (Thriller. 12-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-29850-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death...

THE EDGE OF FALLING

Wealthy high school junior Mcalister “Caggie” Caulfield seeks relief from grief over her younger sister’s death by entering into a dangerous relationship with a mysterious boy.

After her little sister drowns in the pool at her family’s beach house in the Hamptons, Caggie wants to die too, to the point that she contemplates jumping off the roof at a friend’s party in Manhattan. A schoolmate named Kristen saves her at the last minute but nearly falls herself. Caggie actually ends up pulling Kristen back and is credited as a hero, which only makes her feel worse. In her grief, Caggie spurns the attentions of her best friend and devoted boyfriend, but she finds a kindred spirit in Astor, a tall, dark and damaged new boy at school who recently lost his mother to cancer. But what Caggie comes to realize about her relationship with Astor is that “[d]arkness stacked on darkness just makes it that much harder to find the light.” After another nearly fatal disaster with Astor at the beach house, Caggie is forced to confront the falsehoods she has told her family and friends and let go of her guilt over her sister’s death. Though Caggie makes a point of telling readers that her paternal grandfather called people like her “phony,” almost nothing is made of the connection to Catcher in the Rye, and it serves merely to make Caggie’s tale suffer by comparison.

Flat secondary characterizations and humdrum dialogue won’t keep teens from relishing this histrionic tale of love, death and lies. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3316-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more