PICTURES IN THE DARK

Outwardly, the Nevilles of Spokane are your typical Eisenhower-era family; in reality, Mom is abusive and unhinged, given to withholding food from her two daughters regularly. Once she nearly choked her older daughter to death. Nearly everything her girls do sets this woman off, and punishment is quick and severe. All this happens under the unwatchful eye of Father, who, adoring his younger wife, is in deep denial. These “pictures” aren’t unremittingly bleak, however. McCord offers the girls support in the form of kind neighbors and a caring boyfriend for the older daughter. She also offers a more than one-sided portrayal of Mrs. Neville and includes strong hints of the emotional abuse she suffered in her own youth. There’s an uneasy truce at the end, with no sugar coating; it’s not a given that Mrs. Neville will ever completely exorcise her demons nor that her daughters will forgive her. To her credit, the author suggests no quick fixes, yet provides characters with whom readers will sympathize. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58234-848-0

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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LOVE, STARGIRL

Fifteen-year-old Susan “Stargirl” Caraway has moved to Pennsylvania, but as independent and free-spirited as she is, she can’t seem to let go of Arizona and her old boyfriend Leo Borlock. She’s lonely, even in the midst of a loving family and a colorful cast of characters in her new town. There’s five-year-old spitfire Dootsie, agoraphobic Betty Lou, angry Alvina, Margie the donut queen and mysterious Perry, a potential new boy in Stargirl’s life. As much as readers will relish this community and wish Stargirl would get on with her life there and forget mooning over Leo, she can’t seem to, and the whole leisurely paced novel is “the world’s longest letter” to him. Humor, graceful writing, lively characters and important lessons about life will make this a hit with fans of Stargirl (2000) and anyone who likes a quiet, reflective novel. Those meeting Stargirl here for the first time will want to read the previous work to see if Leo is worthy of her devotion. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-81375-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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