An adventure story for reluctant readers driven by high winds of melodrama.

THE VANISHING PLACE

A quick outing in a borrowed boat becomes a terror-soaked nightmare for a group of teens.

Cast into short bursts of confessional free verse, the tale opens with four young people meeting on a Florida beach and setting out for a joyride—which turns deadly with the onset of a sudden squall that leaves one dead and the others stranded on a deserted island with virtually no supplies. As they take up the narrative oars, each in turn reveals a distinctive mix of traits and histories—Nate is moody and serious; his buddy Jay hides the emotional wreckage of childhood abuse beneath the facade of a carefree party boy; Brooke is the outgoing one; and Eva, her friend from back home in Pennsylvania, though timid in company, turns out to be the most resolute and heroic of all. The plot ends on a wave of narrow squeaks as, after weeks with no sign of rescue, the survivors set off on a bamboo raft…only to be driven back to the island by a big shark and, later, another ferocious storm. Emminizer cuts her debut novel off in an abrupt ending that may bring some readers up short but will at least spark discussion about how things will turn out. The characters are all cued as white except for Eva, who is Latinx.

An adventure story for reluctant readers driven by high winds of melodrama. (Verse novel. 13-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5383-8509-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

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?

In the end, it’s more liberating than oppressive, with bits of humor and a jubilant pageant takeover by beauty rebels to...

DUMPLIN'

From the Dumplin' series , Vol. 1

In a small Texas town, a confident fat girl confronts new challenges to her self-esteem.

At age 16, Willowdean—her mother calls her Dumplin’—has a good sense of herself. She’s uninterested in Mom’s raison d’être, the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, which annually takes over the town and Will’s own house. Mom won once and now runs the pageant, dieting to fit her old dress and pressuring Will to diet too. Will doesn’t. She mourns her beloved aunt Lucy, a second parent to her who died six months ago, and simmers with pleasure over a new, hot, sort-of-boyfriend. However, his touch makes Will panic with newfound insecurity. She loses him, loses her old best friend, gains new social-outsider buddies (a familiar trope)—and finds triumph somewhere amid Dolly Parton, drag queens, breaking pageant rules, and repairing relationships. The text refreshingly asserts that thinness is no requirement for doing and deserving good things, that weight loss isn’t a cure-all, and that dieting doesn’t work anyway. The plot arc, amazingly, avoids the all-too-common pitfall of having its fat protagonist lose weight. Unfortunately, Murphy loses her step and undermines her main point in the mournful, cringeworthy details of Lucy’s death and life, which are blamed on extreme fatness rather than unfairness.

In the end, it’s more liberating than oppressive, with bits of humor and a jubilant pageant takeover by beauty rebels to crown this unusual book about a fat character. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-232718-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more