RUNNER

Following the death of his father and faced with the prospect of a cold, hungry winter in Northern Australia, 16-year-old narrator Charlie Feehan struggles to find his way into adulthood. Set in a bustling working-class neighborhood in Richmond, Melbourne in 1919, Charlie goes behind his grieving mother’s back as he works as an alcohol runner for local crime boss Squizzy Taylor. Covering a lot of ground (poverty, violence, identity, family, friendship, romance, athleticism), this episodic novel has more than a few holes and contrivances. For instance, the streetwise kid who understands the danger faced by a local prostitute is unconvincingly naïve about the intentions of his mother’s violent suitor, a plot thread that seems inserted to help Charlie hold onto his ill-gotten cash. Still, this vivid coming-of-age tale, steeped in period dialogue that may initially prove challenging, may satisfy determined readers with its colorful characters, gritty action, a protagonist who grows and changes and its resonant themes and issues. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: April 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-83744-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE

In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

HOMELESS BIRD

1893

Pub Date: March 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028454-4

Page Count: 250

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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