MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD

A long and winding road to a botched surprise: Look elsewhere for satisfaction.

A girlfriend, a gay best friend, and an imaginary companion provide company and distraction for a teenager experiencing repressed trauma.

Beginning with the book’s title and the appearance of a dapper, spectral gent named Winston Ono on the first page, Goldblatt makes good on his claim at the outset that John, Paul, George, and Ringo are all over this exercise in misdirection. Not that the many embedded Fab Four riffs add anything significant beyond opportunities for readers to feel clever for spotting them. His mom may be just a voice on the phone and his dad an emotional wreck, but David Salmon keeps up a semblance of normalcy as he drifts between home and his Flushing, Queens, middle school—hanging out with secretive BFF Hector Caban, struggling to keep pace with aggressive and easily offended classmate Minnie Drugas, and getting used to having Winston suddenly pop up in his bedroom or out on the street to deliver vague, evasive comments. As it eventually turns out, there has been a tragic family event…but since the author studiously avoids having anyone mention it and provides only deliberately misleading hints, when David does at last reveal its nature with a sudden meltdown, it seems to come out of nowhere. An assurance thereafter that now it’s going to be “getting so much better” has, at best, a tinny ring. The main cast presents White.

A long and winding road to a botched surprise: Look elsewhere for satisfaction. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781949515510

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Phoenix Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

NEVER FALL DOWN

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

Close Quickview