WHAT MOMMA LEFT ME

After her mother’s death at the hands of her abusive father, African-American eighth grader Serenity Evans and her younger brother go to live with their loving grandfather, a pastor, and grandmother, a church volunteer, in this enlightening debut novel. To deal with her worries—grief; her neighborhood, where drugs and violence remain a constant temptation; her feelings for a boy involved in both; her brother’s poor choices; her questioning of God—she turns to her journal, which begins each chapter and includes assigned poems and quotes from the Bible and Maya Angelou. Surrounded by strong women who remind the young teen that she always has options, Serenity grows in quiet fortitude as she becomes more committed to her church and personal ethos and tries to find her momma’s legacy beyond shoes, nightmares and secrets. By facing difficult questions, she discovers that individual moments in life, like the ingredients in her favorite red velvet cake, may be unsavory, but combined together, they create a delicious experience. Warm, rich and satisfying. (recipe) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59990-446-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced.

THE ALWAYS WAR

For the past 75 years, Tessa’s nation has been at war—a war that has no end in sight.

Tessa lives in a community of weary people, visibly crushed by endless years of combat. They are numb; war is commonplace. But when a local boy receives an award for bravery—the nation’s highest—it lifts the city. Everyone, especially Tessa, desperately needs a hero. But Gideon shocks the town by refusing the honor. He declares himself a coward and runs away. He has killed more than 1,000 people; there is no honor in that. But that’s what war is, isn’t it? Killing the enemy is necessary. Gideon infuriates Tessa, but she is inexplicably curious as well. She follows him and ends up on a plane, with Gideon steering it straight toward the enemy line. He hopes to apologize, to atone for his mistakes, but what he and Tessa (along with a stowaway orphan named Dek) find when they open the plane’s door changes the plan dramatically. This dystopian drama examines the human aspect of war, and also how technology may redefine war in the future. In line with that tension, it is difficult to pinpoint which character grows the most in the narrative—Tessa or the computer.

If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced. (Dystopia. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9526-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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