THE SERIOUS KISS

Fourteen-year-old Libby’s first-person narration of her trials and tribulations starts off gratingly but becomes likable two-thirds of the way through. Libby’s screwy family includes a mother more likely to say “dinneroo” than “dinner” and an older brother who hides cigarettes in his hair; worse, no one sees her, her father’s an alcoholic, and family dysfunctions go unacknowledged. Lamenting that “everything awful happen[s] to me,” Libby’s yanked out of her small town and moved to a Barstow trailer park (surprise: it’s a retirement home!) next door to an unknown woman (surprise: it’s her grandmother!). Far away from her old best friend (and co-conspirator in getting a “serious kiss” from a boy), Libby forms a new life in the tiny desert town. Dad’s alcoholism hits bottom and rehab ensues; Libby’s tone shifts, thankfully, from an overdramatic annoyedness to an open realness. The serious kiss comes in a wonderful final chapter containing a rare gift: a supremely satisfying last sentence. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-072206-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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STARGIRL

Newbery-winning Spinelli spins a magical and heartbreaking tale from the stuff of high school. Eleventh-grader Leo Borlock cannot quite believe the new student who calls herself Stargirl. Formerly home-schooled, Stargirl comes to their Arizona high school with a pet rat and a ukulele, wild clothes and amazing habits. She sings “Happy Birthday” to classmates in the lunchroom, props a small glass vase with a daisy on her desk each class, and reenergizes the cheerleading squad with her boundless enthusiasm. But Stargirl even cheers for the opposing team. She’s so threatening to the regular ways of her fellows that she’s shunned. No one will touch her or speak to her—or applaud her success when she wins a state speech tournament. Leo’s in love with her, but finds that if he’s with her, he’s shunned, too. She loves him enough to try to fit in, but when that fails spectacularly, she illuminates the spring school dance like a Roman candle and disappears. The desert—old bones, flowering cactus, scented silence—is a living presence here. So is the demon of conformity, a teen monster of what’s normal, a demon no less hideous because it’s so well internalized in us all. Leo chooses normalcy over star stuff, but looking back as an adult he finds Stargirl’s presence in a hundred different ways in his own and in his former classmates’ lives. Once again Spinelli takes his readers on a journey where choices between the self and the group must be made, and he is wise enough to show how hard they are, even when sweet. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-88637-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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