Stories of runaways and survival attract middle-grade readers nearly as well as a short format. This boasts the added attractions of solid, sometimes poetic writing, a great, self-deprecating sense of humor, and a zippy pace that will keep readers interested. Sixteen-year-old Martin Miller has grown up with his widowed Mom Miller in Winnemucca, Nevada. Martin feels entirely comfortable there and resists leaving when his mother marries a wealthy man from Seattle. Just after the wedding, as his Mom and new stepfather leave for an extended European honeymoon, Martin escapes in his Jeep. His gas money takes him as far as Red Rock, Idaho, where he sets up residence in an illegal campsite, hiding his Jeep from the road. He quickly finds a job and enrolls in the local high school. Except for running away, Martin behaves with real responsibility, working, studying, and caring for the “critters” that surround his Jeep. His new girlfriend, however, shoplifts, steals, and eventually reveals Martin’s secret camp. Wyss (A Stranger Here, 1993, etc.) deftly keeps her writing light and her narrative moving, as she leads readers (and Martin) into realizing that his choices reflect his feelings about his mother far more than about leaving Winnemucca. With truly readable style, she balances plot and language in an entirely plausible adventure into growing up that should have wide appeal. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029783-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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