A FIELD GUIDE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Because there is no room in the car, Andie, the soon-to-be ninth-grader, is left behind, as her parents drive her older sister Claire to start her freshman year at Yale. Once at home, Andie finds the Field Guide that Claire wrote for her using chapter headings from a real guide. Andie will be entering the same posh private school from which Claire recently graduated as valedictorian. The first half (POISONOUS PLANTS) is comprised of detailed ins and outs of private school and advice that tends toward overbearing (“Don’t dress up too much. . . . Don’t introduce yourself as my sister.”) and the accumulated effect eventually emphasizes poor Claire’s own fierce alienation. The second half (VENOMOUS ANIMALS), mostly humorous and clever, categorizes every specimen of the high-school genus and species. While the book-within-the-book idea is an interesting one, its potential never seems to develop fully. Andie’s minimal response may leave readers wondering about its purpose—for kids to laugh at themselves or to articulate a more subversive message about individuality? Backmatter includes lists for top reads, music and television. Glaringly omitted is Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (1999), to which, in part, this book may owe a debt. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-73410-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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