FREEDOM SWIMMER

A compelling historical story that highlights timeless themes.

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: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

INDIVISIBLE

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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