A worthy read for teens looking to expand their worldviews.

PEAS AND CARROTS

Unwillingly brought together, two girls rely on snap judgements to guide their encounters with each other, and as a result, tempers flare.

Fifteen-year-old Dess Matthews, a white girl, has bounced from the streets to juvenile homes to foster care. Her dad is an abusive drug dealer. Her mom is a meth addict. Her grandma doesn’t want her. And her little brother, Austin, is in foster care. Hope Carter, also 15, a black girl, has lived a very different life—a comfortable one…except for the constant barrage of foster children streaming through her parents’ house, the latest being Austin. Dess is annoyed when she arrives at the Carters’ perfect home. Their daughter, whom she’s cruelly nicknamed “Hopeless,” is naïve, and Austin thinks of the Carters as his real family. One glance at Dess gives Hope all the information she needs to know about her new fashionista foster sister; Dess is trouble, especially with her “dragon-lady nails” and “unfriendly eyes.” The dialogue is sometimes clunky and awkward, but Davis’ dual narrative effectively portrays two very different but very genuine teenage characters—two girls learning to accept each other’s vastly different lifestyles as they try to coexist. Their relationship is fraught with tension, and their familial situations aren’t perfect, fostering an emotionally honest plot and candid conversations about race and class.

A worthy read for teens looking to expand their worldviews. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-51281-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

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. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more