A stunning and compassionate portrait of a young woman fighting to retain her sense of self under a repressive regime.


In 1980s East Germany, where everyone is always watching, all Lena Altmann wants to do is disappear.

After her parents die in a factory accident, Lena has a nervous breakdown, drops out of high school, and is taken in by her Aunt Adelheid, the widow of a high-ranking member of the Communist Party. Auntie does her best to take care of Lena, securing her a coveted position as a night janitor at the headquarters of the Stasi, or secret police. Although she knows she should be grateful, Lena hates the job, not only because it makes people fear her, but also because an officer she nicknames Herr Dreck (Mr. Filth) sexually assaults her in his office every night. The only person who makes Lena happy is her Uncle Erich, a writer. When he disappears, a devastated Lena knows she must risk everything to find out what really happened to him. The narrative pulses with suspense due to a skillfully rendered cast of characters that are repeatedly forced to choose between preserving their humanity or their lives. The rich historical details plunge readers into a chillingly realistic world where it is impossible for citizens to trust each other and in which Lena struggles with mental illness, sexual assault, and grief.

A stunning and compassionate portrait of a young woman fighting to retain her sense of self under a repressive regime. (Historical fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77321-071-1

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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A visually stimulating and emotionally gripping graphic novel about the Métis people.



From the A Girl Called Echo series , Vol. 2

A sequel offers a teenager’s further adventures through Métis history.

In Vermette’s (Pemmican Wars, 2018, etc.) graphic novel, Métis teen Echo Desjardins is starting to fit in a little better at Winnipeg Middle School, making friends and getting involved in the Indigenous Students Leadership group. But she still spends most of her time listening to music on her cellphone and getting swept up in the lectures that her teacher gives on the history of the Métis people. This volume covers the 1869 Red River Rebellion—or Red River Resistance, as Echo’s back-in-time friend Benjamin calls it, because “there will be no violence.” After the Hudson Bay Company sells the land on which the Métis people live to the government of Canada, Métis leaders Louis Riel and Ambroise Lépine attempt to halt the inevitable flood of settlers. They establish a provisional Métis government for the Northwest Province. Though the Métis take great pains to negotiate peacefully with the incoming Canadian government, troublemakers both inside and outside of their territory—including the anti–Roman Catholic, anti-French, anti-Indigenous Orangemen—may make the violence that Benjamin promised would never occur impossible to stop. As Echo witnesses one of the great what-ifs of North American history fall apart, the tragedy is reflected in the pain she feels in her personal life back in the 21st century. As in the previous volume, the story is accompanied by beautiful, full-color artwork by the team of Henderson and Yaciuk (Pemmican Wars, 2018, etc.). This book has less of Echo’s own life in it than the first novel, and the historical portions, with their many bearded 19th-century leaders, feel perhaps more didactic and less dramatic than the author’s account of the Pemmican Wars. Even so, this underexplored portion of North American history should prove intriguing and affecting for readers, particularly those living in the United States, where the struggles of the Métis people are largely unknown. By contrasting these historical events side by side with Echo’s story, this installment does a wonderful job showing how the ripples of past policies have shaped the current day and how political decisions always have a personal cost.

A visually stimulating and emotionally gripping graphic novel about the Métis people.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55379-747-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HighWater Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Though slightly uneven, this suspenseful coming-of-age tale packs a punch.


A teen must protect his family from a powerful gang in Farley’s debut.

In the summer of 1978, Arcangel Valley is ruled by the Blackjacks, a notorious gang with deep roots in the dead-end California town. Fifteen-year-old RJ has other things on his mind, such as his disabled little brother, Charley, whose unspecified foot deformity gives him a mysterious “greater purpose,” and the death of his father, a Vietnam War veteran. But when the Blackjacks order RJ to harass the mysterious old man who’s moved into their territory, RJ must protect himself and his family without losing his soul. As his attempts to outsmart the Blackjacks grow desperate and the old man becomes a confidant, RJ unearths shocking family secrets and wrestles with his conscience and past trauma. Though RJ confronts weighty topics—among them corruption and redemption; the power of storytelling; and the haunting aftermath of war—his evocative, unflinching narration keeps the pages turning. However, the author’s heavy-handed literary and religious symbolism, drawn from The Canterbury Tales and Catholicism, sometimes overshadows realistic plot and character development. Charley, nearly defined by his deformity, is barely developed despite his closeness to RJ; the ending is somewhat far-fetched. Many characters, including RJ, appear to be White. RJ’s best friend is brown-skinned and Latinx.

Though slightly uneven, this suspenseful coming-of-age tale packs a punch. (Historical fiction. 16-18)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64129-117-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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