Intriguing, savory Victorian chiller.

VELVET

A Victorian teen becomes dangerously ensnared in the sinister world of a fraudulent medium in this well-constructed, thoroughly researched tale set in London in 1900.

A “quick and intelligent girl” with no family to support her, Velvet works long hours under dreadful conditions at Ruffold’s Steam Laundry. A year ago, Velvet’s drunken, abusive father fell into the river while chasing her, and she did nothing to save him. Guarding her guilty secret, Velvet abandoned her old life and childhood beau, fled to London and changed her name. When the famous clairvoyant Madame Savoya hires Velvet, she’s thrilled to live in Madame’s posh house and quickly develops a crush on Madame’s handsome assistant, George. Initially grateful and in awe of Madame’s seemingly incredible ability to communicate with spirits of the dead and bring comfort to grieving survivors, Velvet gradually discovers Madame’s skills are not all they appear to be. By including descriptions of Madame’s private sessions with individual clients, Hooper clues readers in to Madame’s fraudulent schemes long before Velvet realizes the appalling truth. Vulnerable and credible, Velvet tries to expose Madame, but not before a shocking revelation. Packed with fascinating period details about the Victorian spiritualist craze, Hooper’s suspenseful tale delivers authentic characters, bizarre encounters, plot twists and romance.

Intriguing, savory Victorian chiller. (author’s note; historical notes; bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-912-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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

NEVER FALL DOWN

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 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Compulsively readable and brilliant.

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I MUST BETRAY YOU

A rare look at the youth-led rebellion that toppled Romania’s Ceaușescu.

Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu, with his spiky hair, love of poetry and English, and crush on Liliana Pavel, is as much of a rebel as it’s possible to be in Bucharest, Romania, in 1989. Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu has been in power for 24 years, and most Romanians live in poverty, exporting what they produce to unknowingly fund Ceaușescu’s obscenely extravagant lifestyle. Wild dogs attack children in the streets, and secret agents are everywhere. When an agent confronts Cristian with evidence of treason—a single dollar bill tucked inside his notebook—and also offers medicine for Bunu, his sick grandfather, Cristian agrees to spy on the American diplomat family whose son he’s become friendly with. But as young Romanians gradually become aware that other countries have gained freedom from communism, they rise up in an unconquerable wave. Sepetys brilliantly blends a staggering amount of research with heart, craft, and insight in a way very few writers can. Told from Cristian’s point of view, intercut by secret police memos and Cristian’s own poetry, the novel crackles with energy; Cristian and his friends join the groundswell of young Romanians, combining pragmatism, subterfuge, hope, and daring. While the story ends with joy on Christmas Day, the epilogue recounts the betrayals and losses that follow. The last line will leave readers gasping.

Compulsively readable and brilliant. (maps, photos, author's note, research notes, sources) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984836-03-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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