VICTOR

Gerstein (The Giant, 1995, etc.) brings to this novelization of the life of the so-called savage of Aveyron a sustained intensity that proves both haunting and chastening. As the French revolutionaries begin time anew with year one of the new calendar, a feral child, who has somehow survived on his own in the wild, is delivered into the care of Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, a doctor and teacher of deaf children in Paris. Itard believes he can teach the boy he names Victor; Victor learns to stay clean and dressed, to recognize objects, and to communicate in essential ways. But although he can spell some words, Victor never learns to speak. Gerstein handles language with grace, with a precision that makes tangible Victor’s beautiful, silvery laugh, dark eyes, animal’s quickness of movement, and profound sense of smell. The novel—which moves among Itard’s point of view, Victor’s, that of the deeply kind woman, Sophie GuÇrin, who nurtures Victor and shuns the doctor’s severity, and her daughter Julie’s—confronts the most basic notions of what it means to be civilized, what it means to be human, and whether a sense of justice can be imposed or learned. The story indicates that Itard failed his charge in two crucial areas: His approval was conditional on Victor’s behavior; and he refused to address Victor’s sexuality. Readers will be mesmerized, and even stirred by the questions Gerstein raises and attempts to answer. (Fiction. 13+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-38142-9

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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An inspirational read.

THE LIGHT IN HIDDEN PLACES

A true story of faith, love, and heroism.

Stefania “Fusia” Podgórska longed for nothing more than to leave the rural Polish farm she was born on for the city of Przemyśl where her older sisters lived. At the age of 12, she did just that, finding a job with the Diamants, a family of Jewish shopkeepers who welcomed her into their lives. For three years they lived peacefully until the Germans dropped bombs on Przemyśl. The family struggled on as the war and anti-Semitism ramped up, but eventually, the Diamants were forced into a ghetto. Then 17, Catholic Fusia was determined to help them survive, even at the risk of her own safety, while also caring for her 6-year-old sister, Helena, after their family was taken by the Nazis for forced labor. Knowing the risks involved, Fusia made a bold decision to harbor Jews. As the number of people she sheltered increased, so did her panic about being caught, but she was determined to do what was right. Cameron (The Knowing, 2017, etc.) used Stefania’s unpublished memoir as well as interviews with family members as source material. She deftly details Fusia’s brave actions and includes moving family photographs in the author’s note. Narrated in the first person, the story highlights essential events in Fusia’s life while maintaining a consistent pace. Readers will be pulled in by the compelling opening and stay for the emotional journey.

An inspirational read. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35593-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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