“It was dumb, and I’m sorry,” Jamie West says after a near-disaster. He had tried to burn the weeds around his garden and, instead, almost burned the surrounding fields, hillside, and pigpen fence. Thus the author establishes the narrator’s character in the first chapter. By the end, when Jamie says, “I had to wonder what kind of boy I’d become,” we have seen a transformation in Jamie into a new boy even he doesn’t recognize. He and his cousin Jerry build a raft on a river his parents worry about, and given the title, cover art, and foreshadowing in the story, readers know the river will be the agent of transformation in this stirring tale. Jamie’s father tells the boys they are not to be Tom and Huck adventuring on the Mississippi. They must always be anchored to a rope and must never go floating off down the river. Since Jamie is not a strong swimmer and the river has two major dams downstream, the boys are not eager to disobey the father’s admonitions. However, it’s clear from the beginning, something will occur on that river. An accident does happen, tragedy strikes, and consequences result. The author mars an otherwise good story by the folksy voice he gives the narrator, who spouts one corny expression after another: “I was sure you could’ve hid Arlie’s brain in a gnat’s hind end with room to spare”; “I’d rather shampoo a porcupine.” They don’t ring true in the mouth of a 14-year-old boy, and they distract the reader. Curiously, the folksy voice is mostly dropped later in the story as the plot gets rolling. All in all, this is a good story with much excitement, a satisfying conclusion, and some moral weight. It ought to attract many readers, particularly the Gary Paulsen crowd. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80612-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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