MARIPOSA BLUES

At not quite 14, Graham reaches a crisis with his overbearing father. Summering at Mariposa, where the horses Dad trains are often winners, Graham is increasingly aware that Dad insists on using him as a sounding board yet has no tolerance for his son's opinions. Meanwhile, best old friend Leslie persists in confiding the details of her romance with a ``sensitive, vulnerable'' guitarist and asking Graham's advice—oblivious to his own vigorous attraction to her. Responding to all this with a mixture of sweetness and clumsy early-adolescent rancor, Graham surfs (inexpertly) to forget his troubles; does his patient best for Leslie; stands up to his father with regard to a two-year-old whose owner is eager to race her (prematurely, Dad fears), and even follows the filly to her new trainer—then feels guilty about the frightening depth of his anger towards his father. Like the protagonist of The Boy in the Moon (1990), likable Graham gets some of his better qualities, including honest self- appraisal and scintillating wit, from his mother; Koertge's characters have an individuality from which their interaction springs with wonderful inevitability. A well-crafted, wholly believable picture of a boy in transition, with a satisfying resolution involving recognitions and adaptations from both father and son—hilariously counterpointed with the first appearance of that boyfriend of Leslie's, who (to Leslie's dismay) has been transformed from Scarlatti fan to rock freak. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-316-50103-4

Page Count: 171

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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