Harrowing and realistic but slanted toward sensationalism.

READ REVIEW

THE PROPHET CALLS

Thirteen-year-old Gentry feels trapped in a polygamous walled community ruled by the words of a prophet incarcerated in Texas.

Gentry and her older brother Tanner are excited to receive an invitation to play their violins at a local music festival, but when the Prophet calls to forbid women from leaving the compound, Gentry’s hopes are dashed. Tanner decides to sneak Gentry out to perform, but defying the Prophet carries consequences. Restrictions, harsh physical punishment, and ejection from the community are meted out at the whims of the leadership. Tanner and Gentry’s disobedience forces her family to make desperate decisions. Lifted straight from the headlines, Gentry’s tale is a harrowing reality for splinter groups of the LDS Church. Unfortunately, while the details are horrific, there is no attempt to qualify the judgment leveled against all Mormons. The story is compelling, but the use of stereotypes undercuts its power. The sadistic Prophet’s son, the pedophilic leader, and complicit women are predictable place holders for real characters. Gentry’s naiveté about the reality of the outside world is understandable, but she seems equally clueless about her own, all-white community. Violence against animals and children as well as sadistic treatment of a girl with Down syndrome might further make this a difficult read for younger children despite the publisher’s designation of a middle-grade audience for it.

Harrowing and realistic but slanted toward sensationalism. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0755-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise.

WHERE SHE FELL

A teenager battles social anxiety disorder and giant bugs in a subterranean world.

When two bad friends to whom she’s been clinging trick her into venturing into the ominously named Drowners Swamp, Eliza falls into a sinkhole that leads into a seemingly endless cave system. Being an avid fan of caves and geology, Eliza is as enthralled as she is terrified—a mix of emotions that remains unaltered as she encounters a small community of likewise trapped people surviving on a diet of outsized spiders and cave insects. Weeks later she is captured (briefly, thanks to a conveniently timed spider attack) by bioluminescent humanoids. All the while, despite having been in therapy for years, she continually denigrates herself for panic attacks and freezing up around others. Her emotional reactions take up so much of the narrative, in fact, that for all its lurid, occasionally gruesome turns, it’s hard to tell whether character or action drives the story more. In the event, Eliza is surprised to find reserves of inner strength—and a chance at personal transformation—through her ordeal. The first-person narration is punctuated with excerpts and sketches from Eliza’s journal. Except for one character with brown skin, the nonglowing cast defaults to white. Warring themes and elements give this outing a distinct feel of multiple stories yoked together by violence.

Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise. (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23007-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more