ITCH

“Itch” is what Delores’s Gramps call her. After he dies, and she and Grams move from their house in Florida to a trailer park in Ohio, Delores decides to look for a new identity. She makes friends with baton-twirling Gwendolyn and, through her, a stylish clique at school. She also befriends Billy, who shares her love of fishing and appreciates her fascination with words. Even with these new friends, she worries about losing her best friend back in Florida, jealously scanning her letters for hints of betrayal. Set in 1968, this novel of friendship is peppered fairly obviously with period details, and more skillfully with issues of classism and domestic violence. The almost entirely character-driven plot gets a finishing touch from a thin narrative arc involving Gramps’s old Bel Air. Kwasney’s characters are prone to corniness and hyper-astute self-awareness, but they still manage to be fully fleshed and memorable. The melodramatic touches will most likely appeal to readers looking for another making-friends-at-a-new-school book. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8083-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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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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STARGIRL

Newbery-winning Spinelli spins a magical and heartbreaking tale from the stuff of high school. Eleventh-grader Leo Borlock cannot quite believe the new student who calls herself Stargirl. Formerly home-schooled, Stargirl comes to their Arizona high school with a pet rat and a ukulele, wild clothes and amazing habits. She sings “Happy Birthday” to classmates in the lunchroom, props a small glass vase with a daisy on her desk each class, and reenergizes the cheerleading squad with her boundless enthusiasm. But Stargirl even cheers for the opposing team. She’s so threatening to the regular ways of her fellows that she’s shunned. No one will touch her or speak to her—or applaud her success when she wins a state speech tournament. Leo’s in love with her, but finds that if he’s with her, he’s shunned, too. She loves him enough to try to fit in, but when that fails spectacularly, she illuminates the spring school dance like a Roman candle and disappears. The desert—old bones, flowering cactus, scented silence—is a living presence here. So is the demon of conformity, a teen monster of what’s normal, a demon no less hideous because it’s so well internalized in us all. Leo chooses normalcy over star stuff, but looking back as an adult he finds Stargirl’s presence in a hundred different ways in his own and in his former classmates’ lives. Once again Spinelli takes his readers on a journey where choices between the self and the group must be made, and he is wise enough to show how hard they are, even when sweet. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-88637-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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