Grandfather quotes Teresa of Avila and Henry Vaughn (thus the title). "Poetry does illuminate, doesn't it?" he asks. "Doctors with both skill and human compassion are becoming an endangered species," but Daddy Austin is one. Mother does housework to Brahms or Beethoven, cooks to Bach or Scarlatti or Mozart. Vicky, 15, is a poet; and the boss scientist says of her dolphin journal, "Your prose is excellent. . . your imagery is precise and vivid." The family hates plastic grass at funerals, discusses black holes in "heavy" dinner-table conversations, and generally holds the enlightened attitude on everything from prayer to parmesan cheese, which they buy ungrated. "It does have a much more delicate flavor than when it comes out of a jar," says Mother prissily. All this is revealed during the summer that L'Engle's Austin family spends on Seven Bay Island, in the book-filled converted stable where Grandfather, a former minister, is dying of leukemia. To balance her anguish over grandfather's dying and the general atmosphere of death that seems to prevail that summer, Vicky takes comfort and joy from her remarkable ability to communicate nonverbally with dolphins. And she is distracted by the heady dilemma of choosing among three young men: spoiled, rich Zachery, who says he needs her and whose kisses fill her with electricity; Leo Rodney, whose father has just died saving Zachery from suicide, and whom Vicky grows fond of but only as a friend; and Adam, a college student working with the dolphins, who doesn't want to get involved but who answers her telepathic call when she needs him at the mainland hospital—where Grandfather is being transfused and a leukemic, epileptic child has just died in her lap. This last bit of death is almost too much for Vicky, who is probably more sympathetic in her temporary despair than she is elsewhere, mulling repetitively over death, dolphins, and the three young men. There is an irritating air of self-satisfaction to L'Engle's view of Vicky's deep concerns—and to her picture of the family, whose literate quotes but commonplace thoughts seem cast as examples of superior wisdom and compassion.

Pub Date: May 1, 1980

ISBN: 0374362998

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1980

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...


In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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