Christian teen readers may enjoy this average effort by one of their own, in spite of its flaws.

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CHASING JUPITER

Scarlett, 16, will need faith to guide her through a series of tribulations.

Scarlett's 10-year-old brother, ever-so-winsome Cliff, is perhaps afflicted with some type of high-functioning autism. Somewhat implausibly, Scarlett is the only one in her dysfunctional family who understands him at all. Her older sister, Juli, a budding hippie, is too wrapped up in her boyfriend, her parents are too busy fighting over money and politics—a conflict that never emerges as more than background noise—and her live-in grandfather is losing a battle with Alzheimer's. After a promise to outer-space–focused Cliff, Scarlett starts earning money by baking peach pies so that she can build him a replica of a rocket ship. In this effort she is helped out by the son of the owner of the peach orchard, sensitive, smart Frank. Then there's a terrible accident, heavily foreshadowed, with a nearly unbelievable outcome, and Scarlett must either succumb to despair or find a path to peaceful acceptance through God. Coker, a teen herself, too often lets her authorial voice intrude on Scarlett's narrative, creating attractive (and frequently redundant) sentences that ring false—"I enjoyed the warm, breezy air kissing my windblown cheeks"—and weakens the narrative by too-often resorting to telling rather than showing. The 1969 time period is never well-realized. 

Christian teen readers may enjoy this average effort by one of their own, in spite of its flaws. (Historical fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-310-73293-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zondervan

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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With fewer living Holocaust survivors each year, it’s increasingly important to tell their story, and this is one, however...

PLAYING FOR THE COMMANDANT

A Jewish girl sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau lives because of the whims of a sadistic camp commandant.

Even in the squalor of the 1944 Hungarian ghetto, Hanna Mendel has hope for her promised place at the Budapest Conservatorium of Music, until the Nazis order the ghetto’s Jews onto cattle cars. As her journey progresses, Hanna systematically loses everything: her home and piano, cleanliness, preciously hoarded sheet music, her father at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and her clothes and hair—even her name—as she’s processed into the camp. Chance leads Hanna to a terrible hope, for the camp’s commandant seeks a pianist. Like all the commandant’s personal slaves, her life is only minimally improved. Though she doesn’t work at hard labor, she starves just as harshly as any prisoner. The commandant’s sulky son, who helps sneak tiny scraps of food into the camp, appeals to Hanna much more than the diseased, wretched Jewish boys. Except for the infelicitously handled romance, Hanna’s story is reminiscent of such classics as Aranka Siegal’s Upon the Head of the Goat (1981). If anything, Hanna’s tale isn’t brutal enough—her starvation has few physical implications, for instance, and she’s blithely ignorant until war’s end of what’s burned in the camp ovens or the fate of Dr. Mengele’s twins.

With fewer living Holocaust survivors each year, it’s increasingly important to tell their story, and this is one, however soft-pedaled . (Historical fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6403-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Simple, endearing period Christian romance.

THE PEASANT'S DREAM

From the Hagenheim series , Vol. 11

The son of a farmer falls in love with the daughter of a duke in this period romance set in a German-inspired world.

Adela dreams of traveling around the region and proving herself as a painter, but as the youngest daughter of Duke Wilhelm of Hagenheim, she isn’t even allowed past the castle walls without a guard. Twenty-one-year-old Frederick works on his father’s farm to support his parents and sisters. His hopes of becoming a woodcarver are realized when he gets the chance to carve biblical scenes on the cathedral’s new doors. One day Adela dresses as a servant and sneaks out to the market, where she meets Frederick and they have an instant connection. Adela entertains the idea of falling in love with a poor farmer, but her family has arranged suitors from noble families. When Frederick gets caught up in a plan to kidnap the duke’s daughter for ransom, secrets are revealed, and Adela and Frederick must decide how to cope with the truth. The story has many elements of “Cinderella,” altered just enough to make it feel original. The characters are charming and the plot is engaging. The text is heavily laced with Christian references and prayers, as both main characters have strong faith. Frederick’s family experiences domestic violence at his father’s hand. Fans of the series will enjoy the references to characters from previous entries, but the novel functions as a stand-alone story. All characters seem to be white.

Simple, endearing period Christian romance. (discussion questions) (Historical romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7852-2833-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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