STRAYS

Sixteen-year-old Ted’s new to foster care, but not new to being unwanted. In his old high school, he was bullied, and his now-dead parents cared more about the animals they sold than they ever cared about their own son. At first, his new foster home seems like it will be just another terrible time in Ted’s life. Foster-father Mr. Rafter is mildly racist, while Mrs. Rafter likes to breast feed a plastic doll. There’s nobody Ted can communicate with, except the animals he’s always been able to speak with: dogs, cats, the giraffe at the zoo. But against all of his expectations, Ted starts to make friends with his foster brothers at the Rafter’s, and with a few girls at school. Ted’s life is far from perfect, but maybe he can rely on someone other than animals at last. The development of Ted, the slightly unreliable narrator—from sullen self-sufficient teen to tentative social animal—is heartwarmingly real, and the light magical touch adds a clever flavor to this appealing coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-2705-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the...

THE MOST DANGEROUS THING

An eleventh-grade girl wants to start a relationship but is stymied by depression and anxiety.

Syd knows her depression isn’t really out of control, like some people’s. She can usually manage the crushing fog that weighs her down: tricking herself into getting out of bed by playing the phone game; biking around Vancouver, British Columbia, until she’s exhausted; investing online with her cantankerous grandfather; eating just enough to get by. It works well enough until her lab partner, Paul, starts texting and flirting. Syd would respond in kind if she could, but she’s afraid to make eye contact or have conversations with new people—how could she possibly start a relationship? Fading into the background would be ideal, but her gregarious family has other plans. Her mother, revitalizing the family Passover celebration, ropes Syd into embarrassing Jewish singalongs. Worse, Syd’s vivacious sister wants to perform The Vagina Monologues for the school drama festival, and she’s written her own monologue—one that uses “the c-word”! The oozing darkness that dominates Syd’s thoughts is authentically represented in her present-tense narration and appropriately addressed with professional mental health treatment. Frustratingly, however, Syd’s nervousness about romantic and sexual intimacy is pathologized as a curable symptom of her mental illness.

An approachable, earnest, feel-good romance between a white Jewish girl and a Chinese-Canadian immigrant boy provides the flavor for a tale of recovery and empowerment . (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1184-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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