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

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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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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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