This novel may mean well, but it fails to find a balance between romance and the reality of regime change



An American teen visiting her Egyptian grandmother in Cairo witnesses the beginnings of the Arab Spring movement.

After being caught at a wild high school party, Mariam and her best friend, Deanna, are sent to spend the remaining five months of the school year with her conservative grandmother in Egypt. Mariam dreads her grandmother’s legendary strictness: “[F]rom the stories my baba [father] has told me…I would probably have more freedom in jail.” But Deanna, who “loves anything Egyptian,” immediately embraces the adventure. (Deanna’s tastes run toward romance novels featuring stereotypical illustrations of “pseudo-Arab lover boy[s]” on the covers.) Mariam’s initial mockery of her friend’s books later becomes ironic when the plot begins to center more heavily on romantic entanglements than the rebellion against President Hosni Mubarak. By the end of the teens’ stay in Egypt (which ends up being a mere five days), both girls have found boyfriends for themselves and a love match for the grandmother. The timeline makes the many musings on true love more mawkish than believable. Meanwhile, there are so few scenes about the demonstrations in Tahrir Square or meaningful conversations about the political landscape that readers will develop little sense of the historical significance of the real Egyptian rebellion.

This novel may mean well, but it fails to find a balance between romance and the reality of regime change . (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4926-0138-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Thirteen-year-old Sarah’s new classmates at Glades Academy don’t welcome her—she’s there on scholarship, and her mother works in the school cafeteria. On a field trip to the Everglades, Sarah seizes the chance to get away by sneaking off on an airboat ride through the saw-grass marsh with the guide’s 15-year-old son, Andy, taking only her backpack, a camera and some mosquito spray. A stop at a remote fishing camp ends in disaster when the boat sinks, and they’re stranded, surrounded by alligators and snakes, with half a bottle of Gatorade and a can of SPAM. Andy knows what they’re up against, but Sarah refuses to believe that they must leave the tiny island to trudge the 10 miles back to land. Wildlife and vegetation are vividly described; Sarah’s fear is palpable in scenes of near-disaster, and readers will cheer when she and Andy make it safely out of the swamp after five days. However, the first-person narrative is uneven, marred by gaps that make it hard to fully visualize some situations, and there are too few transitions to support some rather sudden instances of closeness between Sarah and Andy. Rorby cleverly offers only subtle hints that Sarah is African-American and Andy is white until late in the story, adding depth to this survival story framed within the story of an outsider. (Adventure. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5685-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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An emotionally moving portrayal of the effects grief has on a family.


Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Allegra is divided by a family at odds with each other.

Allegra’s mum died when she was 3, but she doesn’t know what caused her death or why it made her family stop speaking to each other. She just knows that they each love her differently, and she feels split in three ways trying to maintain relationships with each of them. Allegra lives at Number 23 with her Hungarian Jewish grandmother, Matilde, who is haunted by memories of the war and who runs a strict household. With Matilde she is Allegra. Her father, Rick, takes her surfing, and they have a good time together. But for reasons she doesn’t understand, he lives in the flat above Matilde’s garage; with him she’s Al Pal. Next door, at Number 25, lives her passionate Catholic grandmother, Joy, to whom she is Ally. When Allegra helps a friend and things go awry, their family secrets must be confronted. Set in 1970s Australia at the cusp of a cultural revolution, this is both a story of self-discovery and one of family healing. Debut author Daniel’s strength lies in the creation of complex characters; Allegra in particular operates from a sheltered existence and makes decisions, judgments, and mistakes in an authentic—and, at times, painful—way. Most characters are white except Allegra’s best friend and her mother, who are Indigenous.

An emotionally moving portrayal of the effects grief has on a family. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5107-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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