A compelling historical story that highlights timeless themes.

FREEDOM SWIMMER

A young man lives out his father’s dream and learns the meaning of freedom.

Opening in coastal southeastern China during the 1960s and continuing until the 1970s, this gripping story introduces 11-year-old orphan Ming Hong, who is mourning his mother, who recently starved to death, like countless others during the Great Leap Forward. Ming’s fateful encounter with Lam Feiyen, a girl who was running away from her abusive home, gives him hope and evolves into a sustaining plot strand as the tale dives into the Cultural Revolution era. Sweeping social experiments, such as sending city youths to the countryside to learn through engaging in labor, bring Li to Ming’s village, where the teen boys’ paths cross. Using spare prose and straightforward language, dual narrators Ming and Li relate their perspectives as acquaintances struggling for a sense of purpose while enduring cruelty and suffering imposed by politics that pitted peasants against city dwellers, friends against one another, and children against their own parents. As Ming processes his long-deceased father’s failed bid for freedom and ponders his own ambition to swim to the British colony of Hong Kong, Li persuades Ming they should attempt this escape together. Their breathtaking journey and subsequent events feel plausible and poignant, not only because they are based on the lived experience of the author’s father, but also thanks to Chim’s gift for storytelling.

A compelling historical story that highlights timeless themes. (note about phonetics, map) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-65613-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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THE PAPER GIRL OF PARIS

Passionate, impulsive Chloe and her popular older sister, Adalyn, were inseparable—until the Nazis invaded France in 1940 and Adalyn started keeping secrets.

Over half a century later, Alice, Chloe’s 16-year-old American granddaughter, has just inherited her childhood home in Paris. The fully furnished apartment has clearly been neglected for decades and raises more questions than it answers: Why didn’t Gram talk about her childhood? Who is the second girl in the photos throughout the apartment? Why didn’t Gram’s family return there after the war? Alice’s father is reluctant to discuss anything that might upset Alice’s mother, who’s still reeling from her mother’s death, so Alice decides to find answers on her own. What she eventually learns both shocks and heals her family. Chapters alternate between Alice’s and Adalyn’s voices, narrating Adalyn’s experience as a French Christian of the Nazi occupation and Alice’s attempts to understand what happened after the war. The girls’ stories parallel one another in significant ways: Each has a romance with a young Frenchman, each has a parent struggling with depression, and each must consider the lengths she would go to protect those she loves. Though at times feeling a bit rushed, Alice’s engaging contemporary perspective neatly frames Adalyn’s immersive, heartbreaking story as it slowly unfolds—providing an important history lesson as well as a framework for discussing depression. Alice and her family are white.

Gripping. (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293662-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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