WHITE CRANE

From the Samurai Kids series , Vol. 1

Set in an alternative feudal-ish Japan, this is the story of five kids with severe disabilities or disfigurements who have been accepted for training in a school for samurai. The unusual Cockroach Ryu is directed by the elderly, highly respected (and amusingly crotchety) samurai Ki-Yaga. Ki-Yaga and his equally cranky horse, Uma, are distinct as characters and add much to the book—humor, tactics and the use of pudding as a tool for success. The plot starts unusually slowly, limiting tension, suspense and probably audience, since adventure fans expect lashings of the first two qualities from the start. And the five students in this book are identified primarily by their disabilities (blindness, one leg, one arm, having six fingers, fear of fighting) for the first third of the story. This disappointingly reductive technique results in unclear characterization; by the time additional and critical back story is provided, many readers will have given up. Given these flaws, it is doubtful that most kids will stay with the book long enough to become engaged with story or characters. (Adventure. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4503-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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One great big whodontcare.

WHEN YOU LEAVE

A skater girl–turned–private school coed investigates the death of her two-week-old hookup in this debut.

After her single mom remarries and moves Cass to private school, the teen copes by maintaining her friendships with the male skateboarders from her old neighborhood, including her best friend, Mattie, who has become mute after a bout with throat cancer. In spite of her disdain for St. Bernadette’s, Cass falls for Cooper, an attractive peer counselor who has the bad luck to be murdered two weeks after he and Cass meet. When Cass’ skater friend Gav is accused of the murder, she is determined to clear his name. After many accusations and much lying and sneaking out, Cass ends up getting her biggest clue from a dream, and the murderer is no one readers ever could have guessed. While the story has some satisfying moments, the text is littered with clichés and laughably clunky sentences like “Reality stroked my stomach like a hot poker.” The dialogue is awkward, the secondary characters are hard to distinguish from one another, and it’s difficult to believe that independent Cass would so easily fall for a “[t]ypical pretty boy” who woos her with phrases like “I like you….You have a virtual, I don’t know, rainbow of emotions without even talking.” The most interesting character by far is Mattie, who carries a torch for Cass and communicates with finger taps and shoulder shrugs. Their slowly unfolding romance is the engine that drives this otherwise uninspired mystery.

One great big whodontcare. (Mystery. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7624-5455-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Running Press Teens

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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A tale driven by its informational purpose, with only a short story’s worth of plot.

LOST CAUSE

From the Seven (The Series) series

Posthumous messages and tantalizing clues send a teenager from Canada to Barcelona in search of a hidden chapter from his beloved grandfather’s past.

One of a septet of simultaneously published novels, all by different authors and featuring cousins who are each left a mission or task in their shared grandfather’s will, this takes Steve to Spain, where he discovers that his elder relative was a member of the International Brigades. He is guided by his grandfather’s old journal and also by Laia, an attractive young resident of the city who lectures him on the Spanish Civil War while taking him to several local memorial sites. Steve slowly gains insight into how it felt to believe passionately in a cause—even, in this case, a doomed one—and then to lose that innocent certainty in the blood and shock of war. The storyline is, though, at best only thin glue for a series of infodumps, and readers will get a stronger, more specific view of that conflict’s drama and course from William Loren Katz’s Lincoln Brigade: A Pictorial History (1989).

A tale driven by its informational purpose, with only a short story’s worth of plot. (map and family tree, not seen) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55469-944-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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