Lots of action and low page count should propel reluctant readers along.


From the Bareknuckle series

Corruption is everywhere in 1870s New York City, and George Choogart wants to be the journalist who exposes it.

George arrives from England with a job offer from the New York Times and, as a test of his skills, is assigned the task of finding a story so new as to be unfamiliar to the editor. He thinks he has found it in Lew Mayflower’s Woodrat Saloon, where he goes undercover as a fighter to learn more about illegal bare-knuckle boxing matches. Politician Big Jim Dickinson finds fighters there for use in his secret and very crooked matches. Although George is in the thick of the intrigue and danger, it is female reporter Holly Quine who gets the scoop. Sacks nicely captures the chaos of the time and place and weaves a fast-paced, action-packed tale. Detailed descriptions of the brawls and bare-knuckle fights make up the bulk of the text. Several peripheral characters, while quite colorful, appear to have little purpose. In the end, George leaves New York and heads west, thus paving the way for a series of tales set in the Woodrat with new fighters and their back stories and penned by different authors. Publishing simultaneously are The Giant, by Jonathan Mary-Todd, Fighter’s Alley, by Heather Duffy Stone, and Lightning’s Run, by Gabriel Goodman.

Lots of action and low page count should propel reluctant readers along. (Historical fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2163-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Stronger books may exist about the 1960s, but female friendship tales never go out of style.


For “bad girls,” hell can be a place on Earth.

In Houston in the early ’60s, girls only seem to have two choices: be a good girl and get married or be a bad girl and live your life. Fifteen-year-old Evie, from a working-class White family, became a bad girl after her sister’s shotgun wedding took her away from home. Mexican American neighbor Juanita, who smokes, drinks, wears intense eye makeup, and runs with the tough crowd, takes Evie under her wing, but despite the loyalty of this new sisterhood, Evie often feels uncertain of her place. When a rich girl from the wealthy part of town named Diane saves Evie from assault by killing the attacker, Evie finds a new friend and, through that friendship, discovers her own courage. This work borrows a few recognizable beats from S.E. Hinton’s 1967 classic, The Outsiders—class tensions, friendship, death, and a first-person narrative that frequently employs the word tuff—but with a gender-swapped spin. Overall, the novel would have benefited from a stronger evocation of the setting. During an era of societal upheaval, Evie struggles to reconcile her frustration at the limited roles defined for her and her friends, with many moments of understanding and reflection that will resonate with modern readers’ sensibilities—although sadly she still victim blames herself for the attempted assault.

Stronger books may exist about the 1960s, but female friendship tales never go out of style. (author's note, resources) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23258-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.


A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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