A beautiful, visceral plunge into the perils that the train-jumping migrant brotherhood experiences.

READ REVIEW

BEAST RIDER

Manuel follows in his brother’s footsteps as he jumps a train that will take him to the U.S.–Mexico border.

“Call me Manuel.” Johnston and Fontanot de Rhoads evoke Moby-Dick’s iconic opening in setting the scene for Manuel, a 12-year-old Mexican boy, to conquer The Beast  and reunite with his brother Toño. Leaving behind his corn-farming family and the milpita they work in Oaxaca, Manuel rides The Beast, a name given by locals to the many trains traveling north. For many The Beast is a vehicle that will lead them to their hopes and dreams. For others, it is a monster that will tear away their limbs and disable them for life. With danger lurking on each train car, Manuel must be cautious of the brutal gangs that prey on the weak and rely on the bond that unites migrants on their harrowing journey and the patrons who help riders tame The Beast. Like the chugging of The Beast, Johnston’s poetic prose permeates Manuel’s journey and gives a steady rhythm to the story even as Oaxaca-based psychotherapist and translator Fontanot de Rhoads provides details to ground it. Without shying away from the cruel and often crude journey that migrants experience, the authors deliver a captivating story of travelers dreaming a better future and their incandescent fight to achieve it.

A beautiful, visceral plunge into the perils that the train-jumping migrant brotherhood experiences. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3363-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise.

WHERE SHE FELL

A teenager battles social anxiety disorder and giant bugs in a subterranean world.

When two bad friends to whom she’s been clinging trick her into venturing into the ominously named Drowners Swamp, Eliza falls into a sinkhole that leads into a seemingly endless cave system. Being an avid fan of caves and geology, Eliza is as enthralled as she is terrified—a mix of emotions that remains unaltered as she encounters a small community of likewise trapped people surviving on a diet of outsized spiders and cave insects. Weeks later she is captured (briefly, thanks to a conveniently timed spider attack) by bioluminescent humanoids. All the while, despite having been in therapy for years, she continually denigrates herself for panic attacks and freezing up around others. Her emotional reactions take up so much of the narrative, in fact, that for all its lurid, occasionally gruesome turns, it’s hard to tell whether character or action drives the story more. In the event, Eliza is surprised to find reserves of inner strength—and a chance at personal transformation—through her ordeal. The first-person narration is punctuated with excerpts and sketches from Eliza’s journal. Except for one character with brown skin, the nonglowing cast defaults to white. Warring themes and elements give this outing a distinct feel of multiple stories yoked together by violence.

Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise. (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23007-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more