Pick up David Elliott’s Voices (2019) instead.

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THE LANGUAGE OF FIRE

JOAN OF ARC REIMAGINED

Hemphill (Fatal Throne, 2018, etc.), known for her verse biographies of young women, returns with the story of 15th-century Saint Joan of Arc.

Jehanne, as the otherwise illiterate peasant girl spelled her name, was 13 years old when she first heard voices telling her she was to save France. It was 1425, and England and France were well into the fight for domination known as the Hundred Years’ War. At 16, Jehanne convinced the captain of the French dauphin to take her to him. After showing Charles a vision of a golden crown, she rode as a soldier at the head of his army, raised the siege of Orléans, and saw him crowned Charles VII at Rheims. The next spring, however, she was captured by English factions, put on trial, and burned at the stake. In blank verse from Jehanne’s point of view, Hemphill goes into extraordinary detail regarding the battles she fought and the men who did or did not support her—helped by the transcripts from Joan’s actual trial, among the most detailed medieval records still extant. The decision described in her author’s note to condense the holy voices Jehanne heard minimizes the elements of faith and piety; Jehanne is reduced to a protofeminist for modern readers. Also, the story slogs: It could have been half the length with twice the impact.

Pick up David Elliott’s Voices (2019) instead. (foreword, list of monarchs, author’s note, further reading) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-249011-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.

ALL WE HAVE LEFT

This election cycle, with its exacerbated Islamophobia, makes author Mills' (Positively Beautiful, 2015) fictive meditation on 9/11 and the 15 years after especially timely.

The book opens with Travis McLaurin, a 19-year-old white man trying to protect Alia Susanto, a 16-year-old hijab-wearing Indonesian-American Muslim, from the debris caused by the South Tower's destruction. The next chapter takes place 15 years later, with Travis' younger sister, Jesse, defacing a building with an Islamophobic slogan before the police catch her. The building, readers learn later, is the Islam Peace Center, where Jesse must do her community service for her crime. Between these plot points, the author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia ("There's a galaxy between us, hung thick with stars of hurt and disappointment) and Jesse ("I'm caught in a tornado filled with the jagged pieces of my life") as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day.

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate. (timeline, author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-343-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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