In her most ambitious novel since The Return (1987), Levitin follows the events in Exodus through two young people: Jesse of the tribe of Benjamin and Jennat, an Egyptian/Syrian orphan he meets in the house where both are slaves. Caught in a petty theft, Jesse is condemned to the quarries but saved from certain death by Jennat's intervention. Her mistress gives Jennat as a concubine to her cruel husband; after the plagues, Jennat is among many non-Jews who follow Moses. The great leader, however, remains offstage, while significant events such as the bloodbath that followed the worship of the golden calf and the proclamation of the rigorous new laws are dramatized in the experiences of his followers: questioners, idolators, and unbelievers as well as the obedient (and sometimes fanatically) devout. Like Jesse, readers may find God's will hard to fathom: His violent retribution sweeps away bystanders along with sinners, and the righteous seem to suffer gratuitously. But in the end—after Jesse kills a kid that's been mauled by predators (a symbolic antithesis to the actions of the Good Shepherd)—he makes peace with both Jennat (their mutual attraction and bitter strife have figured throughout) and a God whose ``ways are not our ways.'' Jennat, too, accepts the one God who ``asks that you live well and do justice''—though His ways are mysterious, His moral superiority to other gods is clear. In a last chapter, the two recall the past for their children: ``...only those who remember their slavery will appreciate their freedom.'' A deeply felt novel, underlining the philosophical complexity of the story of the Jews' great covenant and their first return to their homeland. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-52273-2

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...


In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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