DANGEROUS SKIES

Stubborn naãvetÇ destroys a close interracial friendship in this long, turgid story from the author of Haveli (1993), set on Virginia's Eastern Shore. After finding the floating body of a migrant worker, Buck, 12, is horrified when his best friend, Tunes, becomes a suspect. Sure that the real killer is prosperous, respected Jumbo Rawlins, ``six foot seven, every inch lean, mean, and ill-intentioned,'' Buck urges Tunes to tell her side of the story. Instead, Tunes disappears. When Buck tracks her down, he's horrified to learn from her that Rawlins has been abusing her physically and sexually. Tunes tries to tell him that a black girl's word won't carry much weight against that of a white adult, but Buck is so convinced that justice will out that he persuades her to come out of hiding. As predicted, she's arrested and tried while Rawlins remains untouched; though not convicted, Tunes moves away and drops out of Buck's life forever. In matching smart, resourceful, opaque Tunes to innocent and blindly loyal Buck, Staples creates a telling contrast, but her penchant for explaining characters, relationships, and situations rather than showing them, plus a plot that wanders like the setting's swampy waterways, slows the pace; ambiguities in Tunes's story, plus Buck's disillusioned, now-it's-five-years-later-and- life-goes-on finish, are puzzling. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-31694-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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THE CORPS OF THE BARE-BONED PLANE

Not exactly a change of pace for Horvath, this slightly less bizarre (only slightly) tale than her usual quirkiness assembles a quartet of grieving loners in a baroque mansion on a remote British Columbian island. Having lost their parents to an accident in faraway Zimbabwe, teenaged cousins Jocelyn and Meline are sent to live with their reclusive uncle Marten—an ex-stockbroker with absolutely no social skills. In desperation, he hires as cook/housekeeper Mrs. Mendelbaum, an old Austrian whose family has predeceased her, and who smuggles in bottles of a barbiturate “cough syrup” to which she and Jocelyn become addicted. These four trade off elaborate monologues that take the tale past months of steady rainfall, a perfectly hideous and hysterically funny Christmas, Meline’s effort to reconstruct an airplane from wrecked parts and the revelation of an older family tragedy, which explains a lot. While Meline’s final monologue is perhaps a too-facile tying up of loose strings, readers will sink deeply into the story, finding the truth under the eccentricity. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-374-31553-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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MULTIPLE CHOICE

A teenager concocts a risky private game that almost leads to tragedy in this character portrait of a borderline obsessive-compulsive from Tashjian (Tru Confessions, 1997). Weary of incessant worrying, regrets, and mental instant replays, Monica tries a distraction; drawing on her fondness for anagrams and other wordplay, she performs an act either a) normal, b) silly, c) mean, or d) sacrificial, depending on which of four Scrabble letters she draws. Repeated drawings lead to several good deeds, which are more than balanced out by embarrassing or painful ones. Soon Monica has made herself wear pajamas to school, give away her prized kaleidoscope, alienate her best friend, and, after locking Justin, the preschooler she babysits, in his room, driven him to jump from a window and scratch his cornea. Monica comes off more as a born fretter than someone with an actual disorder, so her desperation seems overdone; the game appears less a compulsion than a bad decision that gets out of hand. Still, readers will feel Monica’s thrill when she takes charge, and also, with uncommon sharpness, her bitter remorse after Justin’s accident. Once Monica’s secret is out, Tashjian surrounds her with caring adults and, turning her penchant for self-analysis in more constructive directions, leads her to the liberating insight that she’s been taking herself too seriously. As a light study in how self-absorption can sometimes help as well as hurt, Multiple Choice is a fitting choice. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6086-3

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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