THE LAND

“Some white men took care of their colored children; most didn’t. My daddy was one who did.” This is the central conflict of Paul-Edward Logan’s life: his daddy and white brothers love him, but he can never be their equal. His parentage sets him apart from the “colored” population as well, until he is virtually isolated in a society almost totally defined by color. This sprawling tale explores the history of the Logan family and the consequences of the miscegenation that caused diarist Mary Chesnut to call slavery the “monstrous institution.” Pride causes Paul-Edward to leave his father’s land in Georgia and make his way with his best friend to Mississippi. It is here, of course, that he finds and struggles to buy the land that will sustain the Logan family for generations to come. Readers have come to expect Taylor (The Well, 1995, etc.) to deliver a powerful story marked by defining moments that crystallize for the reader the unique cruelty of the post-Reconstruction South, and she continues to do so here. Paul-Edward encounters betrayal and brutality at every turn, from the brother who turns away as his white friends taunt Paul-Edward, to the lumber-camp boss who works him almost beyond endurance, to the landowner who reneges on a land deal. His narration has a tendency, however, to overexplain these events rather than letting them speak directly to the reader. This somewhat dilutes the power of the story; the narrator’s mature distance from the events also saps the story of some of the immediacy found in other installments in the Logan saga. Still, readers who know the Logans will enjoy meeting the youthful avatars of familiar characters, especially the resolute Caroline—Cassie’s Big Ma. Moreover, this is an aspect of the legacy of slavery not often confronted in children’s books; Paul-Edward makes the reader feel its grotesque injustices. They will root for him, as they have for his children and grandchildren, to overcome. (Fiction. 12 )

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-1950-7

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.

GEESE ARE NEVER SWANS

Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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