Football is the central metaphor for how a Korean family confronts life, death, and assimilation in this gritty and moving novel by Lee (Saying Goodbye, 1994, etc.). Leaving behind a successful grocery store in Los Angeles, the Kims move to Minnesota to rescue the store owned by the father's no-good, drug-dealing brother, Bong. Readers will identify the laconic and pained narrator, Chan, and his twin sister, Young, as different from each other as their former city's cultural diversity is from the relative homogeneity of their new small town. The family encounters prejudice from hostile provincials, as well as a welcome from their open-hearted landlady, Mrs. Knutson. Lee creates a tangible sense of what it means to work hard: The Kims struggle to make their new store succeed, going without furniture and embracing Minnesota hotdish. Tragedy comes when Young is killed in a car accident; reeling from the loss, Chan confronts the xenophobic bullies on the football team and reaches an understanding with his old-world father. Both points could have been reached without the death of Young, which seems a forced, unnecessary, and easy plot development. Lee's talent for dramatically depicting the pain and tragedy in living, for showing that every day is a battle, is subordinated by the facile scenes surrounding Young's death. Yet even if the lessons are not as precisely realized as those in Lee's previous books, this is still a strong and intelligent novel. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-025124-7

Page Count: 238

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1996

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Sofia, growing up in an urban Latino neighborhood in McAllen, Texas, has a chance to attend an expensive boarding school in Austin on scholarship. Like her father, Sofia lives the life of the mind, rich with story and possibility. How can she convince her mother to let her take this opportunity? By learning to dance and showing her that she can leave home and still learn to become a good comadre. Canales, the author of the story collection Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales (2001), is a graduate of Harvard Law School, suggesting that Sofia’s story at least closely parallels her own. She is an accomplished storyteller, though not yet, perhaps, a successful novelist. The episodic narrative has disconcerting leaps in time at the beginning, and a sense of completion, or a moral displayed, at several points throughout—all lacking the tension to carry the reader forward. This said, the characters and setting are so real to life that readers who connect with Sofia at the start will find many riches here, from a perspective that is still hard to find in youth literature. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-74674-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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