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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994


The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009


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

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. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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