SAYING GOODBYE

In a sequel to Finding My Voice, 1992, Lee subjugates story to issues: the tragic conflicts generated by racial prejudice and striving for racial solidarity and identity. Like older sister Michelle, Ellen (Myong-Ok, as her well-to-do Korean-born parents call her), is now a Harvard premed. New close friend and roommate Leecia assumes that Ellen will be as concerned with her Korean heritage as Leecia is with her African-American roots, but Ellen is more interested in studying creative writing with an eminent professor/author. Still, she takes up extracurricular tae kwon do and meets classmate Jae, who teaches her Korean and confides that his parents' grocery was destroyed in the L.A. riots. Eventually, newly sensitized by this and other events—and despite her real understanding of Leecia's point of view—Ellen plays a pivotal role in a demonstration against a virulently racist, anti-Korean rap musician whose appearance Leecia has arranged. The girls' friendship is virtually destroyed, though there's a partial reconciliation at the end. In essence, though lightly disguised as fiction, this is an essay on racism in all its diversity, if less than its full complexity. It's also a plausible (if overdetailed) picture of life on campus, with idealized but likable characters and lively dialogue that's a tad too accessible to be realistic (these kids sound more like high school students than Harvard undergrads). Still, a thoughtful, unsimplistic message in a form many YAs will find enjoyable. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-67066-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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