A worthwhile read that personalizes the conflicts that led to the American Revolution.

THE PORTSMOUTH ALARM

DECEMBER 1774

DeMitchell’s YA historical novel is based on American Revolutionary Paul Revere’s legendary ride to Portsmouth, N.H.

When Revere set out to warn the citizens of Portsmouth, N.H., that British regulars were already on their way to Fort William and Mary on New Castle Island to seize the store of gunpowder, many in New Hampshire and Massachusetts immediately responded by taking the fort and imprisoning its soldiers. However, the information was inaccurate. DeMitchell tells the story through the eyes of two young boys, 14-year-old Andrew Becket and 13-year-old John Cochran, set on opposite sides of the conflict as misunderstandings compound and eventually lead to violence. DeMitchell states most of the characters, save for Beckett and the supporting character Joseph Reed, are based on actual people, though the account is fictionalized. Whatever liberties she might have taken with the history, DeMitchell has a talent for the small details that result in a vivid story. Readers feel the rush of the icy Piscataqua River as Beckett tries not to fall off the edge of a barge full of people and the strain of physical work. The story also avoids easy characterizations of heroes and villains; Beckett and Cochran are simply kids trapped in extraordinary circumstances. Gov. Wentworth could easily have been the scapegoat as a native New Hampshire man taking orders from the crown, but he comes across fully rounded. He, too, is trapped as he tries to stay loyal to the king while avoiding violence and advancing free trade in the colonies. DeMitchell’s aim is to provoke thought about the incidents that led to war. Beckett and Cochran feel like real people with real needs rather than handy political constructs or symbols: Beckett wants to avoid conflict and concentrate on bettering himself to get into Harvard, while Cochran feels loyalty to the crown through his father’s position in charge of the defense of Fort William and Mary. 

A worthwhile read that personalizes the conflicts that led to the American Revolution.    

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1932278927

Page Count: 161

Publisher: Mayhaven Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2012

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An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history.

THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL

Jo Kuan leads a double life: a public role as a quiet lady’s maid and a secret one as the voice behind the hottest advice column in 1890 Atlanta.

Chinese American Jo is mostly invisible except for occasional looks of disdain and derisive comments, and she doesn’t mind: Her priority is making sure she and her adoptive father, Chinese immigrant Old Gin, remain safe in their abandoned abolitionists’ hideaway beneath a print shop. But even if she lives on the margins, Jo has opinions of her own which she shares in her newspaper advice column under the byline “Miss Sweetie.” Suddenly all of Atlanta is talking about her ideas, though they don’t know that the witty advice on relationships, millinery, and horse races comes from a Chinese girl. As curiosity about Miss Sweetie mounts, Jo may not be able to stay hidden much longer. And as she learns more about the blurred lines and the hard truths about race in her city and her own past, maybe she doesn’t want to. In her latest work, Lee (The Secret of a Heart Note, 2016, etc.) continues to demonstrate that Chinese people were present—and had a voice—in American history. She deftly weaves historical details with Jo’s personal story of finding a voice and a place for herself in order to create a single, luminous work.

An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4095-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.

ALL WE HAVE LEFT

This election cycle, with its exacerbated Islamophobia, makes author Mills' (Positively Beautiful, 2015) fictive meditation on 9/11 and the 15 years after especially timely.

The book opens with Travis McLaurin, a 19-year-old white man trying to protect Alia Susanto, a 16-year-old hijab-wearing Indonesian-American Muslim, from the debris caused by the South Tower's destruction. The next chapter takes place 15 years later, with Travis' younger sister, Jesse, defacing a building with an Islamophobic slogan before the police catch her. The building, readers learn later, is the Islam Peace Center, where Jesse must do her community service for her crime. Between these plot points, the author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia ("There's a galaxy between us, hung thick with stars of hurt and disappointment) and Jesse ("I'm caught in a tornado filled with the jagged pieces of my life") as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day.

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate. (timeline, author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-343-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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