IT ONLY LOOKS EASY

Nothing could be more crucial than the start of seventh grade thinks Kat, but when Cheddar, the family dog is in a life-threatening accident, Kat goes off the rails. Normally well-behaved and responsible, Kat takes some shortcuts to get to the veterinary clinic that involves borrowing a bike and cutting school. The consequences are not so serious for cutting school, but the bike she borrows is stolen while Kat is getting the update on Cheddar. Kat never hesitates to admit her responsibility and her parents loan her the money until she can earn enough to pay for it herself. Kat’s friends, neighbors, and family are given small roles to play, yet are lively and help to flesh out this somewhat slight story. Once reassured that Cheddar will make it through his injuries, the notoriety of being accused of bike theft becomes the main conflict. A subplot related to the woman whose car hit Cheddar and also suffers from Alzheimer’s provides for some emotional eruptions as well as a few moments of introspection. However, rather than a rich blend of conflicts, the result is one that seems unfocused and scattered. The adults are mostly benevolent and wise; trusted to understand Kat, despite her own failures. An older sister is intriguingly sticky-fingered when it comes to Kat’s stuff, and their sibling exchanges provide the most consistently enjoyable dialogue. For light-hearted readers reluctant to truly examine moral conflicts, and wanting fiction that takes place in a safe world, this does the job. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7613-1790-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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THE CORPS OF THE BARE-BONED PLANE

Not exactly a change of pace for Horvath, this slightly less bizarre (only slightly) tale than her usual quirkiness assembles a quartet of grieving loners in a baroque mansion on a remote British Columbian island. Having lost their parents to an accident in faraway Zimbabwe, teenaged cousins Jocelyn and Meline are sent to live with their reclusive uncle Marten—an ex-stockbroker with absolutely no social skills. In desperation, he hires as cook/housekeeper Mrs. Mendelbaum, an old Austrian whose family has predeceased her, and who smuggles in bottles of a barbiturate “cough syrup” to which she and Jocelyn become addicted. These four trade off elaborate monologues that take the tale past months of steady rainfall, a perfectly hideous and hysterically funny Christmas, Meline’s effort to reconstruct an airplane from wrecked parts and the revelation of an older family tragedy, which explains a lot. While Meline’s final monologue is perhaps a too-facile tying up of loose strings, readers will sink deeply into the story, finding the truth under the eccentricity. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-374-31553-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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MULTIPLE CHOICE

A teenager concocts a risky private game that almost leads to tragedy in this character portrait of a borderline obsessive-compulsive from Tashjian (Tru Confessions, 1997). Weary of incessant worrying, regrets, and mental instant replays, Monica tries a distraction; drawing on her fondness for anagrams and other wordplay, she performs an act either a) normal, b) silly, c) mean, or d) sacrificial, depending on which of four Scrabble letters she draws. Repeated drawings lead to several good deeds, which are more than balanced out by embarrassing or painful ones. Soon Monica has made herself wear pajamas to school, give away her prized kaleidoscope, alienate her best friend, and, after locking Justin, the preschooler she babysits, in his room, driven him to jump from a window and scratch his cornea. Monica comes off more as a born fretter than someone with an actual disorder, so her desperation seems overdone; the game appears less a compulsion than a bad decision that gets out of hand. Still, readers will feel Monica’s thrill when she takes charge, and also, with uncommon sharpness, her bitter remorse after Justin’s accident. Once Monica’s secret is out, Tashjian surrounds her with caring adults and, turning her penchant for self-analysis in more constructive directions, leads her to the liberating insight that she’s been taking herself too seriously. As a light study in how self-absorption can sometimes help as well as hurt, Multiple Choice is a fitting choice. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6086-3

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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