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THE YEAR I FOLLOWED MY FATHER TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD

From the Franny Cloutier series , Vol. 2

A visually engaging and unpredictable romp marred by issues with language and representation.

In this diary-style, illustrated novel translated from French, a Québecois 15-year-old moves to Japan to be with her father, who’s doing research there, while also navigating friendship troubles and heartbreak.

Just when things have settled down from the events of The Year My Life Turned Upside Down (2023), Franny Cloutier encounters both culture shock and her father’s Japanese girlfriend, Yoko, when she lands in Tokyo. Not handling the changes well, she falls into old habits of self-sabotage and chaotic behavior, followed by remorse. The attractive illustrations evoking Franny’s emotional ups and downs embellish each diary entry and text thread, creating an alluring appeal. By contrast, the pervasive use of ableist language and inaccurate, exoticizing portrayals of Japanese culture and people weaken this work. Eventually, Franny gets distracted by Sam, the gorgeous son of her father’s Parisian boss. His reciprocal interest gets her entangled with Capucine, Sam’s ex, at the French school they attend. Conflict with Franny’s best friend back home, Leona, adds even more stress. Franny has poetic moments of introspection (“What if forgiveness had the power to change us for the better?”) that eventually lead to her opening up emotionally. Plenty of loose ends and lingering questions leave room for a sequel. Most of the main characters are cued white.

A visually engaging and unpredictable romp marred by issues with language and representation. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9781646900251

Page Count: 425

Publisher: Arctis Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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NEVER FALL DOWN

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

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 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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