THE SCHOOL OF POSSIBILITIES

Storm isn’t a bad boy, but he’s “not a good one either.” Graffiti, skateboarding and forbidden train journeys get him forcibly enrolled at the last-ditch School of Possibilities. There, Storm’s life degenerates into increasingly nightmarish, magical-realist twists. His fellow students are excruciatingly obedient, even as they have sports, hobbies and girlfriends assigned as punishments. His parents, a wedding-dress seamstress and a Russian chef, both vanish mysteriously. The only bright spot in Storm’s heavily controlled life (he’s barricaded into his room nightly) is his friendship with the street children India, Mew, Ra and Moon. Squatting in a derelict biscuit factory, the runaways urge Storm to solve the terrible mystery of The School of Possibilities before it’s too late for him—or anyone else. Though brief moments will ring problematically for American readers (“She could have been a Native American chief...[or] a bird or some long-extinct human species”), the dark, richly detailed setting of this Finlandia Junior Prize nominee will capture imaginations. Ikonen’s illustrations accentuate the surrealist horror as the tale spirals into thriller. (Surrealism. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4022-1835-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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