Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE PENALTY by Mal Peet Kirkus Star


by Mal Peet

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3399-8
Publisher: Candlewick

More Latin-American magic realism from Carnegie winner Peet. Billed as a companion to The Keeper (2005) and featuring some of the same characters, this can be read independently and tackles deeper emotional territory. When teen soccer star El Brujito disappears, sports reporter Paul Faustino finds himself drawn in to the mystery against his better judgment. A second narrative concerns the life of a slave who became a priest of Veneration (a compelling but imaginary ancestor worship faith); the two threads come together seamlessly in the climactic showdown. El Brujito’s disappearance is steeped in real-world corruption as well as the supernatural, providing a deft balance. Peet’s language is beautiful and assured, with flashes of sardonic humor from Faustino as well as a sense of poignancy and heartbreak in the first-person slave narrative. The lack of YA perspective may initially deter some readers, but Faustino’s journey from skepticism to reluctant belief provides a genuine access point, and any reader who starts this astounding novel will be hard-pressed to put it down. Stunning, original and compelling. (Fiction. YA)