This fast-paced survival adventure makes an excellent crucible for Griffin’s examination of class.

ADRIFT

Two buddies who have been through trauma together before find themselves with three relative strangers out on the open Atlantic, where survival becomes extremely uncertain.

Matt and John work at a state park, where they meet the three, and are working-class in a way that the others don’t understand. Stolid John is mechanically minded and still suffers from the death of his father years earlier. Matt is determined to get into Yale and puts his energy toward saving and studying with that goal in mind. Dark, dreadlocked Driana is visiting the park with her cousin Estefania and Stef’s boyfriend, João. The latter two are from Rio de Janiero and have a carefree aura of entitlement—though Stef was adopted from the favelas by Driana’s uncle after her mother was gunned down in front of her. Griffin explores their individual psychologies and interactions with nuance. Stef has a reckless streak, and her sudden jaunt on a windsurfer leads the others into danger as they go to her aid with a small, open boat. With no radio or gear for the open sea, the craft offers little help for survival as hours, then days pass, the pressures mounting on each in ways designed to test their limits. While the danger is real, the book’s at its most riveting as the characters interact and implode.

This fast-paced survival adventure makes an excellent crucible for Griffin’s examination of class. (Adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-70939-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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