Though it doesn’t blaze new trails, it’s an enjoyable-enough ride.

THE OTHER WAY AROUND

Road-trip rebellion with romance.

A sophomore at the mostly girls’ boarding school where his mother is headmistress, Andrew is not living up to his potential. Not that he’s cared about much of anything since his parents split up, but when pushed too far at Thanksgiving, he runs away from home. At the bus station, Andrew hooks up with an unusual group of young folks who are traveling in a van and living effectively hand to mouth with what they can muster from busking, Dumpster diving and handouts. With the Freegans, as they call themselves, he journeys from home in upstate New York to New Mexico. While it’s not a particularly new plot, the characters become compelling. There’s anarchist Lyle, who is hiding something. Pudgy Asian-American Tim is an odd addition to a troupe of acrobats. G, the lesbian who first approaches Andrew, is ironically the straightest of the bunch, while Jesse, the driver, leader and master of ceremonies, is always positive and inclusive. However, it’s Emily, with her blonde dreadlocks and bare stomach, who captures Andrew’s attention and lust. The dynamics of the group, combined with quirky characters met along the way, provide a certain fascination for both readers and Andrew. Readers captivated by the characters will have a chance to appreciate Andrew’s somewhat slow growth from a wimp with a dick into someone with a spine and a brain.

Though it doesn’t blaze new trails, it’s an enjoyable-enough ride. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-0262-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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An engrossing addition to a thoughtful coming-of-age series.

AKATA WOMAN

From the Nsibidi Scripts series , Vol. 3

A Nigerian teen is pushed to otherworldly limits in search of a mystical object.

Three years after discovering her power as a Leopard, Sunny Nwazue, now 15, must embark on yet another dangerous journey. Tasked with retrieving what the Nimm women (her and Chichi’s ancestors) stole from Udide, the Great Spider Artist, Sunny and her coven—even-tempered Orlu, brash Sasha, and clever Chichi—have no choice other than to comply or risk their pasts and futures. As events are set in motion to track down Udide’s scroll, Sunny must also learn how to be one with Anyanwu, her spirit face, now that she is doubled, a rare occurrence among Leopard People. However, Anyanwu seems to disappear just when Sunny needs her most, and Sunny begins to resent something that is part of her. Over the course of the seven-day time limit Udide sets, Sunny must explore treacherous parts of the spirit world’s wilderness, a parallel Earth teeming with lush plant life and remarkable technology, and new parts of herself. Through the steadily paced, omniscient narration, Okorafor draws readers into Sunny’s compelling world—both real and imagined—making the setting as much of a character as the rest of the cast. As in the previous entries, themes of balance and accountability are woven throughout as Sunny is tested. All characters are Black.

An engrossing addition to a thoughtful coming-of-age series. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-451-48058-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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