For fans of Mean Girls and other high school comedies.

THAT'S NOT WHAT I HEARD

Chaos descends upon William Henry Harrison High when seniors Kim Landis-Lilley and Teddy Lin break up.

Under-the-radar freshman Phil Spooner becomes the key eyewitness to the historic moment that is the end of Chinese-American Teddy and white Kim’s six-year romance. Eager for attention from his crush, Kim’s best friend, Jess Howard, Phil blurts out a fabricated reason, namely that the relationship ended because Teddy didn’t like any of Kim’s Instagram posts. Phil’s lie spirals out of control as the entire school begins to gossip over what really transpired between the it couple. Students and teachers alike take sides, joining either the red-wearing Team Kim or the Teddy Bears, a group founded by Sophie Maeby, who just broke up with her boyfriend and now pines after Teddy. The plot depends on the development of more ridiculous miscommunication and rumors, resulting in the birth of two more groups, the HeartBeats (who want Kim and Teddy to reconcile) and the AntiKaTs (who are fed up with the whole drama), an all-out cafeteria food fight, and the division of prom into four separate themes. The constantly shifting points of view, though whiplash-inducing, allow for an assorted range of humorous insights into an already absurd situation. Although following a white default, there is ethnic diversity in the student body and school staff.

For fans of Mean Girls and other high school comedies. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-28181-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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