THE FAT GIRL

An unusual, cross-generational study in the corruptions of power—with strongly limned if poisonously weak adults, and fuzzier stand-in teens. Expediently signing up for ceramics, glamor-boy drifter Jeff falls hard for gorgeous whiz Norma—an interesting, self-composed sort besides, and (for no apparent reason) equally smitten. Yet why is he so bugged by the clumsy, doting "fat girl" in their class, Ellen De Luca? She keeps watching him, Jeff complains to Norma—who reminds him that he keeps eyeing her too. Then Ellen overhears him mock her, breaks into tears, and stays out of school. Jeff, less contrite than resentful (at being made "angry and cruel"), pays an apologetic call; Ellen sniffles that she's going to kill herself; his mopey, divorced nurse-mother, suffering from her own rejection by Jeff's father, says suicide-threats can't be discounted; and Jeff, jealous in turn of his remarried father's two young sons, takes up Ellen—to mold into a kind of statuesque Earth Mother, and display as his own, exotic creation. The ceramics parallel is implicit: Ellen becomes left's all-consuming project, his answer to what he sees as Norma's preoccupation with, and recognition for, her pots. The parallel with his demanding, complaining mother's need to exercise control—which impels his younger sister to flee to their father's easier-going household—is more open and ultimately explicit. Adoring, not-very-bright Ellen stops gorging herself and loses weight—desirous only of being an ordinary, pretty girl with a handsome boyfriend. She also takes a dogged, untalented fancy to potting (in lieu of college). And when she rejects the gold caftan Jeff has selected for her Senior Prom smash appearance, happily squeezing herself into an ordinary white gown, Jeff is outraged: "It wasn't my Ellen at all." She has the wit to know why he's sore, and the gumption to break off: "it was the power—that's all you ever wanted." Just like his mother, Jeff realizes, when she goes on about ingratitude to console him. You can't properly sympathize with anyone here, nor are you really meant to: the situation is compelling in its very awfulness, and gets edgier as Sachs cleverly, with each detail, tightens the screws.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 1984

ISBN: 0738710008

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984

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A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status.

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FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

Testing the strength of family bonds is never easy—and lies make it even harder.

Daunis is trying to balance her two communities: The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, teen is constantly adapting, whether she is with her Anishinaabe father’s side of the family, the Firekeepers, or the Fontaines, her White mother’s wealthy relatives. She has grand plans for her future, as she wants to become a doctor, but has decided to defer her plans to go away for college because her maternal grandmother is recovering from a stroke. Daunis spends her free time playing hockey with her Firekeeper half brother, Levi, but tragedy strikes, and she discovers someone is selling a dangerous new form of meth—and the bodies are piling up. While trying to figure out who is behind this, Daunis pulls away from her family, covering up where she has been and what she has been doing. While dealing with tough topics like rape, drugs, racism, and death, this book balances the darkness with Ojibwe cultural texture and well-crafted characters. Daunis is a three-dimensional, realistically imperfect girl trying her best to handle everything happening around her. The first-person narration reveals her internal monologue, allowing readers to learn what’s going on in her head as she encounters anti-Indian bias and deals with grief.

A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76656-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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