GIVE A BOY A GUN

Vivid, distressing, and all too real, Strasser’s (Close Call, 1999, etc.) latest work of fiction explores the minds and hearts of a group of students, parents, teachers, and community members whose lives are forever altered by a tragic school shooting. After years of harassment and casual cruelty from the football heroes at Middletown High that is tacitly endorsed by adults in the school, two disturbed, volatile boys arm themselves to the teeth and storm their school dance looking for payback. Although the book’s main message—if these kids couldn’t easily procure weapons, this tragedy could have been averted—comes through loud and clear it is also a denunciation of the value system of an entire community, a community that allowed—even encouraged—a select few to rule by bullying. As the stepsister of one of the gunmen said, “Violence comes in many forms—guns, fists, and words of hate and contempt. Unless we change the way we treat others in school and out, there will only be more, and more horrible tragedies.” The book is not written like a traditional novel; it’s a pastiche of various voices, and the reader pieces the story together through interviews, diary entries, online conversations, and even suicide notes. Despite the fact that the cast is large and it may be difficult for young readers to keep track of who’s who, the multiple points of view create empathy for a wide range of characters and enhance the book’s in-your-face reality. Important, insightful, and chilling. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-81112-8

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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BURIED ONIONS

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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WHAT THE MOON SAW

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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