Reluctant teen readers will identify with Javier’s efforts to negotiate a world with few positive options.

FIGHTING FOR DONTAE

Middle school proves particularly difficult for Javier when he is assigned to spend time helping students in the special-education program.

Javier is about to enter middle school in a small California town with little to offer. He lives with his mother, who struggles with finances and drugs, and sometimes his father, when he is between jail stints. Javier and his friends are expected to be in a gang and constantly work to prove their toughness. Javier also knows enough to hide that he likes to read and how much he wants to avoid trouble. When he is given a service assignment working with special-education students, Javier is dismayed because it means more taunts and teasing. He does not expect his work reading with severely disabled Dontae to change him and provide a level of connection that has been missing in his life. This story, simple in both language and characterization, demonstrates the inevitability of a future on the margins for minority males without some help staying on track. His father is able to articulate it even as he is powerless to change. “I mean, it’s easy to say you want to do something, but can you see the path? Shoot, man. I wanted to do a lot of things, but I had no idea how to even start. And then sometimes you do see the path, but it gets blurry again.”

Reluctant teen readers will identify with Javier’s efforts to negotiate a world with few positive options. (Fiction 11-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2348-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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A tale driven by its informational purpose, with only a short story’s worth of plot.

LOST CAUSE

From the Seven (The Series) series

Posthumous messages and tantalizing clues send a teenager from Canada to Barcelona in search of a hidden chapter from his beloved grandfather’s past.

One of a septet of simultaneously published novels, all by different authors and featuring cousins who are each left a mission or task in their shared grandfather’s will, this takes Steve to Spain, where he discovers that his elder relative was a member of the International Brigades. He is guided by his grandfather’s old journal and also by Laia, an attractive young resident of the city who lectures him on the Spanish Civil War while taking him to several local memorial sites. Steve slowly gains insight into how it felt to believe passionately in a cause—even, in this case, a doomed one—and then to lose that innocent certainty in the blood and shock of war. The storyline is, though, at best only thin glue for a series of infodumps, and readers will get a stronger, more specific view of that conflict’s drama and course from William Loren Katz’s Lincoln Brigade: A Pictorial History (1989).

A tale driven by its informational purpose, with only a short story’s worth of plot. (map and family tree, not seen) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55469-944-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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ZINK

Basing her novel on a one-page story written by an 11-year-old child shortly before her death from leukemia, Bennett (Life in the Fat Lane, 1998, etc.) creates a tale of courage personified. A herd of miniature zebras appears before Becky Zaslow on the day she is diagnosed with childhood cancer—leukemia. During times of painful treatment, the zebras take Becky away to Africa and the Serengeti where they fight off tough predators, cross the treacherous crocodile-filled Mara River, and tell tales about Zink, a mythological polka-dotted zebra. Becky’s secret journal outlines the course of each treatment and is interspersed with the tale of these playful zebras; they help her to remain courageous despite her fears. The zebras, not medical professionals, prepare Becky for death when her bone marrow transplant fails and she succumbs to a respiratory infection. As one of the zebras, Ice Z, tells her, “True courage is admitting we’re afraid and fighting the predators anyway.” After her death, Becky, as Zink, joins the zebra herd. With three pages of acknowledgments and a lengthy afterword, readers may gain more than they need to know about the true aspects of this poignant story, but the embellishments don’t interfere with the raw emotions explored, or the power of Becky’s journey as she learns to run with the herd. (glossary) (Fiction 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32669-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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