A mostly engaging story of sticking up for one’s own beliefs, aimed at young readers interested in questions of social...

MADDIE & SAYARA

A spunky 13-year-old girl challenges the sexist laws of another country in this middle-grade novel of girl power and social justice.

Maddie is on vacation in the Bahamas when she first meets Sayara. They have several things in common: they’re the same age; they both find their little brothers annoying; and they both have doting nannies. Their friendship is cut short, though, when Sayara must return to the unnamed kingdom where she lives, because her beloved cousin Themi has been arrested for driving while female. Maddie is incensed at this and a host of other unfair laws that Sayara must deal with. She vows to go to any lengths to help her friend—even if it means using her mother’s airline miles to book a ticket to the kingdom. On her flight, she meets Alisha, a native of the kingdom who left because of the oppressive societal strictures. She lends Maddie a garment called a “tent,” which all women are required to wear. When Maddie arrives at the kingdom, the “FP,” or Faith Police, are angry that she doesn’t have a man accompanying her; Alisha’s husband swoops in to help, and the family takes Maddie in. Soon her mission to help Sayara is revealed, and despite the risks, Alisha and her family agree to help. Overall, Maddie is an enjoyable and bright first-person narrator with a voice that’s imbued with all the attitude and passion of an authentic teenage girl. It’s also a pleasure to encounter the many grown-ups in her life who inspire her, from her independent Aunt AK (“I’ve always wanted to be like her,” Maddie says. “She’s not only pretty on the outside, but really kind on the inside”) to her forgiving father and Alisha’s wise parents. Some of the dialogue about the injustices in the kingdom is heavy-handed; for example, Themi’s impassioned speech about the unfair laws goes on for more than five pages. But despite the unsubtle messaging, the escalating drama and Maddie’s energetic narration will keep readers turning pages.

A mostly engaging story of sticking up for one’s own beliefs, aimed at young readers interested in questions of social justice.

Pub Date: July 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943967-88-9

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Full Circle Media

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2017

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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