APPLE AND RAIN

A realistic if gently didactic tale about growing up and parenting.

Apple’s got plenty to contend with: her best friend’s deserted her, the boy she’s attracted to barely knows she exists, and her overprotective Nana is a source of embarrassment at school—but what hurts most is her glamorous mother’s abandonment 11 years ago.

At first, her mother’s unexpected return feels like a dream come true, but Apple’s euphoria fades when she realizes Mum didn’t return to rescue her but to be rescued herself from having to raise her younger daughter, Rain, 10, whose existence is a surprise to Apple and Nana, Mum’s mother. Apple, 14, suppresses her doubts when she’s invited to move in with Mum and Rain—the prospect trumps life with Nana. At least Mum won’t insist on driving Apple to school. Instead, Mum urges alcohol on Apple and her classmates, flirts with Apple’s crush, and disappears for days at a time, leaving Apple to skip school and care for troubled Rain. Her English teacher’s poetry assignments encourage Apple, a budding writer, to examine and express her complicated feelings, giving rise to important insights. Her friendship with a new classmate, Del, is a further support. Appealing but naïve, Apple feels more preteen than teen. Most characters, including Nana and Rain, are compassionately drawn—the exception is Mum, whose monstrous narcissism goes far beyond anything Nana’s self-confessed strict parenting can explain.

A realistic if gently didactic tale about growing up and parenting. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61963-690-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

ONCE A QUEEN

Evocations of Narnia are not enough to salvage this fantasy, which struggles with thin character development.

A portal fantasy survivor story from an established devotional writer.

Fourteen-year-old Eva’s maternal grandmother lives on a grand estate in England; Eva and her academic parents live in New Haven, Connecticut. When she and Mum finally visit Carrick Hall, Eva is alternately resentful at what she’s missed and overjoyed to connect with sometimes aloof Grandmother. Alongside questions of Eva’s family history, the summer is permeated by a greater mystery surrounding the work of fictional children’s fantasy writer A.H.W. Clifton, who wrote a Narnialike series that Eva adores. As it happens, Grandmother was one of several children who entered and ruled Ternival, the world of Clifton’s books; the others perished in 1952, and Grandmother hasn’t recovered. The Narnia influences are strong—Eva’s grandmother is the Susan figure who’s repudiated both magic and God—and the ensuing trauma has created rifts that echo through her relationships with her daughter and granddaughter. An early narrative implication that Eva will visit Ternival to set things right barely materializes in this series opener; meanwhile, the religious parable overwhelms the magic elements as the story winds on. The serviceable plot is weakened by shallow characterization. Little backstory appears other than that which immediately concerns the plot, and Eva tends to respond emotionally as the story requires—resentful when her seething silence is required, immediately trusting toward characters readers need to trust. Major characters are cued white.

Evocations of Narnia are not enough to salvage this fantasy, which struggles with thin character development. (author’s note, map, author Q&A) (Religious fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780593194454

Page Count: 384

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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