In a funny, warmly romantic tale from Howe (Shoot for the Moon, 1992, etc.) an impulsive decision leads an average teenager into fulfilling his desire to be “Secret champion of the underdog, modest seeker of truth, fearless innovator of the unknown.” David, after announcing on his 16th birthday that he’s officially naming himself after a comic book hero, is catapulted into a string of situations requiring quick, clever action, from a killer bee attack on the principal to the impending demise of the privately funded school newspaper due to a certain very explicit illustration showing how to don a condom. Meanwhile, discovering in himself a new streak of boldness, David—now Blue—connects with Omaha Nebraska Brown, a soul mate capable both of cogently arguing determinism vs. free will and delivering knee-buckling kisses. Howe sweeps her smart, wide-open characters through an irresistible tumble of twists and coincidences, Big Ideas, and unanswerable questions, pausing for an occasional set piece before ingeniously furnishing a grand climax; having already achieved national fame, both for his principal’s rescue and for solving the “weeping meringue” problem (his recipe for “Blue Avenger’s Weepless Wonder Lemon Meringue Pie” is included), Blue reaches higher glory still by introducing the city council to a new gun control measure. It’s unabashed, cockle-warming wish fulfillment in a novel that has priceless moments and is the perfect respite from all the bleak YA fiction out there. (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6062-6

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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