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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LIFE, AFTER

The exodus of the Jews is breaking Dani’s heart: the exodus from Buenos Aires, that is. The 2001 Argentinian currency crisis has destroyed Buenos Aires’s economy, and all of Dani’s friends are moving to Israel or the United States. Dani’s own family, devastated by poverty and her father’s overwhelming depression, is headed to New York. There, in a wealthy suburb, Dani struggles to make friends in a huge, English-speaking public high school. Dani’s high-school problems follow a checklist of issues: autistic friend, mean popular girl, long-distance boyfriend hiding his new romance. The supporting characters act mostly as set dressing—from the bully who vanishes as soon as he has provoked another character’s redemption to the friend from ESL class who has no nationality or history of her own—and the comforting solutions are too pat. Enjoyable enough, so keep this on the shelf to fight misconceptions about terrorism, poverty, immigration and Jews—but don’t expect readers to come begging for more. (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-15144-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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The book might be effective in a classroom setting; it’s likely to be confusing unmediated

THE WALL

A MODERN FABLE

An Israeli settlement in the occupied territories forms the thinly disguised setting of a tale inappropriately introduced with an epigraph from the Gospels.

Thirteen-year-old Joshua lives in Amarias with his mother and despised stepfather, Liev. He hates Amarias, where his once-joyful mother covers her hair and defers to Liev, but he doesn’t much think about The Wall, the checkpoints and the soldiers he’s told protect him from “the people who live on the other side.” Joshua finds a tunnel that takes him under The Wall, where he’s rescued by a girl. Joshua’s new social consciousness—worry for the girl and wondering how his observations correspond to what he’s been told—is tangled up in his consistently degrading relationship with Liev. Every time Joshua breaks his frustrated passivity in order to help the girl and her family, he worsens the situation for them. Despite the novel’s subtitle, this is wholly realistic fiction detailing a boy’s coming-of-age in a real-life political situation. Unfortunately, in the absence of proper nouns or other clues (Israelis and Palestinians distinguished by “my language” and “harsh, guttural words I can’t understand”; “people like me” and “everyone else”; “us” and “the people who used to live there”), the tale lacks context; without knowledge of the setting, it reads like a dystopian novel inexplicably featuring “American TV” and a “Japanese sedan.”

The book might be effective in a classroom setting; it’s likely to be confusing unmediated . (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8027-3492-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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