A lovely, smart, and haunting adventure tale.

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LOWLANDS

In Gallagher’s debut YA novel, a teenage boy in Queens, New York, meets a young woman from a mysterious culture who changes his outlook on life.

James Ward leads a fairly everyday American life with a quiet family, a few friends, a few bullies, and the usual high school workload. But one day, he meets a strange teenage Irish girl named Cornelia Parsons, who lives nearby with her old-fashioned aunt, Vivien Widdershins. Almost without him realizing it, his new acquaintances slowly initiate him into a hidden world involving tribes of Celtic travelers, itinerant people with a long, secret history and laws, language, and lifestyles that are uniquely their own. Over the course of his high school year, James learns more about the travelers and becomes fascinated by their culture’s blend of rough criminality, clannish insularity, and poetic beauty. He’s soon drawn into Vivien’s struggle to establish her title as queen of the traveler people, and he becomes willing to confront great dangers. Along the way, James learns life lessons and more about his own background as he heeds the call of a new, romantic worldview. The story is highly engaging, with a varied array of nostalgic touches from different countries and periods. As a result, though, it’s sometimes difficult to gauge exactly when the story takes place, although it appears to be set in modern times. This nostalgic tone is clearly the author’s intention, and she even has characters allude to it in dialogue: “ ‘Reminiscences,” said Cornelia, rolling her R. ‘Nostalgia. What we do best.’ ” The various players are quietly but richly delineated, and their conversations ring true; James and Cornelia’s relationship is particularly strong. Indeed, the plot often takes a back seat to character development and exploration of the travelers’ secret world. This is a welcome choice, however, as Gallagher often handles it deftly. That said, readers may find themselves slowed down at times by the liberal sprinkling of pidgin English, Gaelic, Latin, and French words, used for color and literary effect.

A lovely, smart, and haunting adventure tale.

Pub Date: April 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60489-190-4

Page Count: 206

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 1

In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility.

As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories—painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing.

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned...

THE HUNGER GAMES

From the Hunger Games series , Vol. 1

Katniss Everdeen is a survivor.

She has to be; she’s representing her District, number 12, in the 74th Hunger Games in the Capitol, the heart of Panem, a new land that rose from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic North America. To punish citizens for an early rebellion, the rulers require each district to provide one girl and one boy, 24 in all, to fight like gladiators in a futuristic arena. The event is broadcast like reality TV, and the winner returns with wealth for his or her district. With clear inspiration from Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and the Greek tale of Theseus, Collins has created a brilliantly imagined dystopia, where the Capitol is rich and the rest of the country is kept in abject poverty, where the poor battle to the death for the amusement of the rich. However, poor copyediting in the first printing will distract careful readers—a crying shame. [Note: Errors have been corrected in subsequent printings, so we are now pleased to apply the Kirkus star.]

Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned trilogy, as good as The Giver and more exciting. (Science fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-02348-1

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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