A tenderly existential work that will reward more thoughtful readers in this age of the ubiquitous action saga.

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  • Newbery Medal Winner

CRISS CROSS

Debbie, from All Alone in the Universe (1999), returns in a poignantly funny coming-of-age story.

Set in the town of Seldem (conjuring up “hardly ever”) in the leisurely era of double-knit bell-bottoms (fully illustrated), this limns crisscrossing moments in the lives of teen friends. It begins with Debbie’s yearning for something to happen. What happens is a poetic mélange of sweetly ordinary moments in a summer of block parties, fireflies, warm apple dumplings, romance and social awkwardness as the characters try to “find all their pieces” and watch life rearrange itself. Told by an omniscient narrator (who may be the author), this offers multiple perspectives and diverse formats including photographs, exquisite and funny drawings, haiku and a dialogue written entirely in questions. It comes full circle as the two introductory characters, Debbie and Hector, almost wake up to each other at a summer party: “Their paths crossed but they missed each other.” Written with humor and modest bits of philosophy, the writing sparkles with inventive, often dazzling metaphors.

A tenderly existential work that will reward more thoughtful readers in this age of the ubiquitous action saga. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-009272-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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