A missed opportunity to fully engage with a deeply serious issue

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REZ REBEL

Floyd Twofeathers, a Cree teen, vents his frustrations in his secret journal, creating stories to alleviate the angst and confusion he experiences while living on the (fictional) Bitter Lake Reserve.

Suicides have become rampant, and things get even worse when a group of teen girls follows through on a suicide pact posted on social media. It is after this that Floyd feels the urgency to talk with his father, the hereditary tribal chief, to offer help to heal his community. Floyd’s mother, a medicine woman, also urges her husband to work with Floyd, but Floyd’s father, who is overwhelmed with the community’s problems, rejects them both, instead inviting a white actor to the reserve to make a movie in hopes of raising much-needed money. Meanwhile, Floyd hangs out with his friends, going fishing and playing video games even as he rallies them in support of their community and courts a beautiful young woman. This slim book struggles to maintain a consistent tone. What begins as a story addressing the serious impact of suicide in First Nations communities (including a lengthy, potentially triggering flashback to an attempted suicide early in the story) swerves jarringly to a scene in which Floyd’s parents kiss and cuddle as if they had not just learned of the newest suicides. Likewise Floyd’s high jinks with his friends and his instant infatuation with a friend’s beautiful sister (who’s described with stereotyped cliché as “exotic,” with “almond-shaped eyes” and “full ruby red lips”) distract from the suicide plotline. Furthermore, locating the story on a fictional reserve has a homogenizing effect on what is a varied and heterogeneous nation.

A missed opportunity to fully engage with a deeply serious issue . (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4594-1230-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: James Lorimer

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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