Glorifying individual achievement without addressing the complex, ongoing legacy of race and racism, this naïve fable fails...

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WIREWALKER

Clarence, 14, saw his African-American mother shot and killed in their Richmond, Virginia, home; three years later, he and his hard-drinking, Irish-American dad live off Johnnyprice’s dogfighting and crack-dealing business.

Delivering crack to Johnnyprice’s customers, Clarence dreams of escape, of becoming a superhero like Batman, taking comfort in the memory of his mother and his bond with a customer’s affectionate Great Dane. Working for Johnnyprice’s higher-paying competitor, Y, brings risks and rewards. In high school, perennial A student Clarence impresses a kindly black teacher, who asks him to mentor a troubled white boy. (How he earns his A’s under hellish conditions isn’t described.) With some missteps, Clarence begins to shape his destiny. After a powerful first half, increasingly one-dimensional characterization hampers the novel. Whether evil or angelic, victim or victimizer, all share a profound isolation, and race is treated as irrelevant to outcome. Clarence is abused by his father, ignored or rejected by relatives. Though both mentor and mentee, he lacks peer friendships. Likewise, the neighborhood—populated by addicts and dealers—seems adrift from the rest of the world. Current cultural referents, such as cellphones, are puzzlingly absent. Crack’s the drug of choice; policing and the criminal justice system play no role. Without history, community, or culture, it’s a jungle or prison—here, decency resides only in individuals.

Glorifying individual achievement without addressing the complex, ongoing legacy of race and racism, this naïve fable fails to convince. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01646-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history

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  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ

A teenage girl imprisoned in Auschwitz keeps the secret library of a forbidden school.

Dita Adlerova, 14, is confined in the notorious extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Compared to her fellow inmates, Dita’s relatively lucky. The several thousand residents of camp BIIb are inexplicably allowed to keep their own clothing, their hair, and, most importantly, their children. A young man named Fredy Hirsch maintains a school in BIIb, right under the noses of the Nazis. In Fredy’s classroom, Dita discovers something wonderful: a dangerous collection of eight smuggled books. The tale, based on the real life of Dita Polach Kraus and the events of 1944 and 1945, intertwines the stories of several real people: Dita, Fredy, several little-known war heroes, even a grim cameo from Anne and Margot Frank. Holocaust-knowledgeable readers will have suspicions about how many characters will die horribly (spoiler alert: this is Auschwitz). Yet somehow, myriad storylines told by multiple narrators offer compelling narrative tension. Why does BIIb exist? Will Rudi and Alice have a romance? What’s Fredy’s secret? Will Dr. Mengele subject Dita to his grotesque experiments? Dita’s matter-of-fact perspective, set in a slow build from BIIb to the chaotic starvation of the war’s end, both increases the horror and makes it bearable to read.

Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history . (Historical fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-618-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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