THE SHADOW CLUB RISING

Coinciding with the re-release of Shusterman’s first novel (The Shadow Club, 1988), this sequel addresses the lingering consequences of hatred and revenge. Ninth-grader Jared Mercer wants desperately to be just another kid; but as the ex-leader of the Shadow Club, infamous for terrorizing outstanding students with nasty practical jokes, he remains the focus of lingering suspicion, resentment, and (most disturbing) admiration. His guilt over his actions turns to apprehension when superstar student Alec Smartz arrives, for Alec’s competitive drive evokes as much jealousy as popularity. Sure enough, the pranks start up again—harmless at first, but progressively more sinister—and everyone, even his parents, is convinced that Jared is to blame. In order to protect Alec and clear his own name, Jared must become the monster that everyone assumes he already is. In one of those rare sequels that surpass the original, Shusterman delivers thrilling suspense through probing the dark side of the adolescent psyche. Nuanced characterization ensures that there are no clear-cut villains or heroes; even the upbeat ending has a disturbingly creepy edge. As a remorseful former menace, Jared is a less provocative character than the vengeful bully of the first novel, but he is also much more self-aware and likable. His wry observations on how good people can delude themselves into justifying the most appalling acts seem particularly timely. The mystery and nonstop action will draw teens in; but the uncomfortable questions raised about guilt and responsibility will linger on. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46835-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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STARGIRL

Newbery-winning Spinelli spins a magical and heartbreaking tale from the stuff of high school. Eleventh-grader Leo Borlock cannot quite believe the new student who calls herself Stargirl. Formerly home-schooled, Stargirl comes to their Arizona high school with a pet rat and a ukulele, wild clothes and amazing habits. She sings “Happy Birthday” to classmates in the lunchroom, props a small glass vase with a daisy on her desk each class, and reenergizes the cheerleading squad with her boundless enthusiasm. But Stargirl even cheers for the opposing team. She’s so threatening to the regular ways of her fellows that she’s shunned. No one will touch her or speak to her—or applaud her success when she wins a state speech tournament. Leo’s in love with her, but finds that if he’s with her, he’s shunned, too. She loves him enough to try to fit in, but when that fails spectacularly, she illuminates the spring school dance like a Roman candle and disappears. The desert—old bones, flowering cactus, scented silence—is a living presence here. So is the demon of conformity, a teen monster of what’s normal, a demon no less hideous because it’s so well internalized in us all. Leo chooses normalcy over star stuff, but looking back as an adult he finds Stargirl’s presence in a hundred different ways in his own and in his former classmates’ lives. Once again Spinelli takes his readers on a journey where choices between the self and the group must be made, and he is wise enough to show how hard they are, even when sweet. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-88637-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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