By the author of The Chocolate War (1974) and other YA fiction renowned for its fiercely astringent posing of tough questions, a gentler story for younger children, depicting a lonely 11-year-old's qualms and wonderment concerning her neighbors' Catholicism. Darcy's father is a rolling stone; shy Darcy has never had a chance to make friends. "Delta," Massachusetts, where the army has now assigned her father, is even more isolating: the neighbors are mostly "Canucks," Catholics who speak only French. Then Irish Kathleen Mary makes Darcy her best friend, insists that she demonstrate her approaching adulthood by giving away the doll that has long been Darcy's only confidante, earnestly instructs Unitarian Darcy on Catholic observances and the perils of sin, privately sprinkles her with holy water and declares her a Catholic—and then disappears forever with her deeply troubled family, leaving Darcy to puzzle about her own status and beliefs during a time when her father is declared missing in action in WW II and her mother, always frail and withdrawn, is exhausted by factory work. A saintly old nun helps Darcy to understand that, eclipsing denomination, "Loving God is the first thing." Superbly crafted, the story concludes with some trademark Cormier ambivalences: Though Darcy is the only one to hear a glorious peal of bells on Christmas Eve, and though Dad's safety is reported, by miraculous-seeming coincidence, just as Sister Angela prays for him, Kathleen's story has a tragic end that Darcy is unable to share with her reserved parents. How Darcy will deal with these conflicting experiences is left open—a disturbing but realistic conclusion to a book remarkable for its evocation of the milieu and anxieties of the era. Ray's soft-pencil illustrations beautifully reflect the story's pensive mood. A provocative look at the meaning of belief.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1990

ISBN: 044022862X

Page Count: 137

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.


Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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