SLAP YOUR SIDES

In a small Pennsylvania town during WWII, Kerr (What Became of Her, 2000, etc.) demonstrates her command of time, place, and atmosphere in this tale about the effect a young man’s decision has on his family and the community at large when he decides to become a conscientious objector. It’s a subject that is rarely examined, and although the story is light on drama and heavy on talk, Kerr’s scrutiny of the various issues is thoughtful and fair-minded. When Jubal Shoemaker is 13, his older brother Bud, a devout Quaker with “a self righteous streak” leaves the family to work in a Civilian Public Service camp rather than joining the military. Although several Quakers in the community join the service as noncombatants, Bud is the only one who eschews the armed forces all together. As more and more young men go off to fight and die, Bud’s choice becomes an embarrassment to Jubal’s father, a proud business owner. Customers drop away and his ambivalence and anger causes a rift in his marriage and a breakdown of his spirit. Jubal, however, sees Bud’s actions as essentially moral and courageous and wonders if he’ll have the guts to emulate him when his time comes. His heart is further pulled when he develops a secret quasi-romantic relationship with the daughter of a jingoistic radio host whose sons are soldiers. The surprise ending strains credibility as it tries to have it both ways, and the story concludes on an odd melancholy note. Nevertheless, this is engrossing and thought-provoking. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-029481-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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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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