Penalty Kick

The life of a 15-year-old soccer star is changed in an instant in O’Leary’s (The Town That Never Stared, 2011) poignant YA novel.
“[W]e’re two freaks,” Josh Connelly tells Brooke Avery, a girl who’s known at their high school as the “hat girl,” because she wears them to hide her hair loss from chemotherapy. Although her most recent blood tests were encouraging, Brooke will forever be known as the “girl who had cancer,” and the scars on her leg provide a constant reminder. Josh was once mainly known around school for his soccer skills, until he was in a horrifying car accident in which his mother died. The aftermath is brutal: He starts having anxiety attacks, and heartbreakingly, his father can barely stand to look at him. Brooke does look closely at Josh, however, as she understands his agony: “Like Josh, she had sat in a hospital room with her whole world shattered.” Gradually, with Brooke’s gentle encouragement and the help of a psychologist, Josh begins to accept what happened. The character of Brooke has a quality of serene compassion, without a trace of self-pity, and the same is true of O’Leary’s novel, a graceful, empathetic portrayal of young suffering. Josh’s pain is finely depicted in all its complexity but without any judgment or fussy sentimentality. The author’s respect for his characters is clear, even when they behave less than admirably. Josh’s dad, for example, presents a strong contrast to his son; his reluctance to help Josh may seem abhorrent, but his own hurt is no less relentless and requires just as much healing. Despite the grief that permeates the novel, there are also moments of levity, particularly during several brisk, invigorating scenes set on the soccer field.
A moving study of loss appropriate for both young adults and older readers.

Pub Date: May 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-0975321638

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Swan Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.



A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.


Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.

Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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