A sad, but ultimately hopeful story about missed connections and the opportunity for second chances. Poor Liv: her mother died when she was born and her father flew the coop, leaving her in the custody of her maternal grandmother who dies when Liv is 15. A cosmopolitan New Yorker who was brought up to appreciate the finer things, Liv goes into culture shock when she’s sent to live with her father, Mark, a socially primitive man who resides in a bleak one-bedroom apartment in a desolate California beach community. Mark’s girlfriend, Sam, tells Liv that her dad is “not exactly an easy person to get to know,” and she’s not kidding. Things slowly begin to turn around when Mark, who makes his living as a diver harvesting abalone, hires his daughter to work as his tender—the person who keeps the diver safe by making sure the air compressor on the boat is up and running. Although he can barely manage a social conversation, Mark is a treasure trove of knowledge about all things relating to the sea, and their days together give father and daughter a chance to develop the beginnings of a tenuous relationship. A nascent romance, an illness, and an unexpected accident round out the tale and further illuminate the theme. The characters, while not precisely likable, have a genuineness, and the narrative is smooth and elegant. A leisurely paced, somewhat gloomy story, but one that is, in the end, rewarding. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-37397-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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