NOTES ON A NEAR-LIFE EXPERIENCE

Mia’s vision of her perfect upper-middle-class family lifestyle abruptly changes with very little warning or explanation when her father moves out. Household routines and rituals so comfortably familiar for 15-year-old Mia, her siblings and Mom fade away. As the middle child, Mia recounts not only the negative impact divorce has on older brother Allen and younger sister Keatie, but effectively relates her own feelings of loneliness and isolation, despite the other good things (new boyfriend Julian) that are happening in her life. With Mom withdrawing into her work and Allen developing a drinking problem, Mia feels the weight of responsibility as she reflects on her present through flashbacks of a happier time with Dad’s reliable parenting and attention. Written in a realistic, bright, honest, sometimes droll voice, Birdsall’s debut portrays the unfortunate side effects of divorce from the perspective of a confused and unhappy young teen who views her parents’ behavior as immature and selfish when compared to herself and her siblings. As in life, there is no happily ever after here, just poignant realization that life’s circumstances must be worked through and accepted with a great deal of contemplation, understanding and counseling. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2007

ISBN: 0-385-73370-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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The Phantom of the Opera served as inspiration, but this wouldn’t last on Broadway.

PHANTOM HEART

Stephanie and her family move into an old mansion rumored to have been put under a curse after a turn-of-the-20th-century rich boy meddled with an Egyptian mummy.

After her young sister complains about strange events, high school student Stephanie befriends Lucas, a geeky, good-looking boy, and meets the other members of SPOoKy, the Scientific Paranormal Organization of Kentucky: Charlotte, Wes, and Patrick. Stephanie learns the history of her new home from Lucas, who attracts her romantic attention, but the usually levelheaded girl is soon drawn to Erik, the handsome phantom who first comes to her in dreams. The story is told in chapters narrated by Stephanie, Lucas, and Zedok, whose identity is initially a source of confusion to Stephanie. Zedok appears wearing different masks, “personified slivers” of his soul, representing states of mind such as Wrath, Madness, and Valor. Meanwhile, until gifted singer Stephanie came along and he could write songs for her, Erik’s dreams were thwarted; he wanted to be a composer but his family expected him to become a doctor. In the gothic horror tradition, Erik’s full background and connection with Zedok are slowly revealed. Romantic dream sequences are lush and swoon-y, but the long, drawn-out battle to end the curse, aided by a celebrity clairvoyant, is tedious, and the constant introduction of Erik’s different personae is confusing. Most characters default to White; Patrick is Black.

The Phantom of the Opera served as inspiration, but this wouldn’t last on Broadway. (Horror. 13-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11604-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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