Love and loss, learning to heal after profound sorrow, and finding redemption in family ties are the themes of this well-done effort from Mazer (Good Night, Maman, 1999, etc.). From the haunting first sentence, readers will be captivated by the plight of 13-year-old Sarabeth Silver, who suffers the premature death of her barely 30-year-old mother from a heart attack. Sarabeth, now an orphan (her father died in an accident years before), is taken in by her mother’s best friend and the woman’s husband. Though these people mean well, the living arrangement proves very unsatisfactory. Sorting through some of her mother’s belongings one day, Sarabeth happens upon a telephone book that contains the names of people she’s never heard of. She discovers that these are the names of relatives her mother never contacted or spoke about. Sarabeth has always believed that her mother’s family callously turned their backs on her and her parents, a repudiation occasioned by the couple’s teenage marriage. With the encouragement of very close and caring friends—including a boy on whom Sarabeth has a crush—she musters the courage to travel to her mother’s hometown and become acquainted with her long-lost family. Not only does she discover that there’s no ill will on their part toward her or her parents, but she also learns some other startling truths that reveal her mother in a new light. Sarabeth is herself a well-limned character; she’s very real, though her friends and some other characters come across as too good to be true and the boy she likes is almost too perfect. Still, it’s a fine, sometimes funny, unsentimental read with an ending that will satisfy. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-13350-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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