DECEMBER STILLNESS

A touching novel that follows a 14-year-old as she becomes intrigued by a homeless, disturbed vet and tries to "help" him. Underachiever Kelly plans to be an artist—a real one, not just a drawer of greeting cards like her mother. She certainly is not going to turn into a materialistic lawyer like her father. When she has to write a paper on a current issue, she chooses homeless people and starts watching a man in the public library. She first approaches him in a typical teen-ager's Flippant, mocking manner, until stopped by a librarian who firmly tells her to mind her own business. Feeling a mixture of embarrassment, concern, and a wish to prove that she is not really heartless, Kelly then tries to force the man to talk and accept food and clothing. Eventually, he becomes so upset that he throws a magazine at her, giving the people who have been repelled by his smell and strangeness an excuse to forbid him access to the library. Shortly afterwards, when the man is run over and killed, Kelly has to deal with some strong guilt feelings. In trying to sort out her emotions, she quarrels with her father—a vet who has blocked his own memories. Finally, Kelly and her father take a trip together to the Vietnam Memorial; while in Washington, they each manage to do some healing. Kelly is a believable young woman with strengths and weaknesses that are clear to the reader, if not to herself—she's not ridiculous or unlikable, just a normal girl with quirks. Her mixture of compassion and anger is well drawn. The fact that many teenagers are fascinated by the Vietnam War and its consequences may give this novel a fairly wide appeal.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0380707640

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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