Truly outstanding literary moments distinguish this quiet search for identity.

ONCE, IN A TOWN CALLED MOTH

Ana’s move from an isolated Mennonite colony in Bolivia to Toronto is both a culture shock and an opportunity for Ana to search for her mother, who disappeared 10 years earlier.

Alternating chapters compare snapshots of Ana’s life in Colony Felicidad with her adaptation to modern city life—from seeing ethnic diversity to public school. The white 14-year-old’s focus on emotional relationships in both settings reveals universal truths about human nature’s highs and lows. In the colony, everyone knew each other and greeted each other with affectionate nicknames. Kindness is also found in much larger Toronto, as two white neighborhood teens shepherd Ana through her grade nine year. Conversely, both settings also have sinister sides. Understanding her mother’s disappearance requires facing the abuse and potential lawlessness that exists within Colony Felicidad, while Toronto’s dangers are evident in Ana’s musings about an unsolved Toronto kidnapping and her private navigation of potentially inappropriate attentions from her French teacher. Lyrical writing imbues simple scenes with complex emotional undercurrents, as when a character slides “a plate of dumplings onto the table before snapping apart two chopsticks and jabbing one into a soft, sauce-speckled belly.” The motions feel almost casually violent, slyly suggesting untrustworthiness. It’s these descriptions that truly develop the novel’s mystery-laden tension.

Truly outstanding literary moments distinguish this quiet search for identity. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-91811-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

FIVE FEET APART

A hospital is an unlikely place for first love, but for two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who have a history of extended stays, it proves to be a realistic yet difficult backdrop.

Stella is a high school senior who is dedicated to her CF treatments while Will, a talented artist, is home-schooled and anticipating his 18th birthday, when he will be free to make his own medical decisions. Despite rocky first impressions, Stella and Will make a deal—Will must stick to his treatment regimen, and in return, Stella will model for him while he draws her portrait. This leads to romance, but the combination of CF and Will’s infection with B. cepacia requires that he must stay several feet away from Stella, making physical touch an impossibility. Stella eventually understands why living on the edge can be freeing, and Will begins taking his treatment regimen seriously—leading to their only bit of meaningful development. The novel is written in alternating chapters, creating a few unexpected plot developments, but much of it is predictable and forgettable due to thin characterization. All characters are presumed white except for gay, Colombian CF patient Poe, whose story arc fulfills tired stereotypical tropes and who seems to function mostly as a catalyst for Stella’s growth.

The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3733-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

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A lush and hypnotic modern fairy tale.

WHITE FOX

Ten years ago, enigmatic film star Mireille Foix disappeared from Viloxin, her Mediterranean island home, leaving her pharma tycoon husband and two young daughters bereft.

Eighteen-year-old Manon and 17-year-old Thaïs have lived with their aunt in New York City ever since, and their father’s death the previous summer still stings. Tai is puckish and effervescent, with “beautiful gemstones of stories that she’s sharpened to points” and musical laughter that hides deep insecurity. Noni, on the other hand, is a bookish and unabashedly melancholy young woman. When they get an invitation to return to Viloxin, the “Eden” of their childhood, as guests of honor at a retrospective of their mother’s work, they can’t pass it up. Soon after their arrival, Tai discovers White Fox, a legendary unfinished script penned by her mother. The screenplay, which is nestled in between Tai’s and Manon’s narratives as well as that of Boy, a darkly mysterious third narrator, may hold the key to Mireille’s fate. Desperate for the truth, Tai and Noni are enticed into an eerie and darkly seductive puzzle box of enigmatic clues, revelations, and danger. Faring, an imaginative, tactile, and immensely quotable wordsmith, explores the complexities of sisterhood and grief with a deft hand, and her unusual island setting, with its futuristic touches, draws readers in with a sensuous warmth that belies the sharp teeth beneath its surface. Most main characters seem to be White.

A lush and hypnotic modern fairy tale. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30452-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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