FARM TEAM

Weaver (Striking Out, 1993) begins his novel in black and white, swiftly setting up a Dickensian network of coldness and cruelty around Billy, 13. An outsider at school, but a good ball player, Billy has no time for baseball, especially when his violent father goes to jail for vandalizing a used car lot. Billy is at the center of a series of conflicts: with the baseball team; with his father; with the law; with farmwork. Just when the story seems headed toward melodrama, Weaver gives us something completely different. Instead of unfolding tragically and rigidly, the plot starts meandering, almost systematically blurring the brutal first impressions, and gradually transforming dramatic conflict into logical contradiction. In the process, both readers and characters get a lot more comfortable. No one has to witness or dwell on Billy's suffering; he simply goes around giving everybody the finger. The desolate farm becomes familiar, people become friendly. Weaver totally unhinges the action from the emotional landscape in which it opened and then lyrically ties everything together: Billy and his mother start their own baseball team, build a field on the farm, and beat the Town Team. From conflict to contradiction and from contradiction to understanding, the narrative pulls readers along, every event staged with precision. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: June 30, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-023588-8

Page Count: 284

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1995

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A deftly layered sports thriller populated with fierce girls.

THEY'LL NEVER CATCH US

Edgewater is famous for two things: the unsolved murders of three teen cross-country runners 10 years ago and the events of the previous summer when Stella Steckler did something unforgivable to a competitor.

Cross-country runners and sisters Stella and Ellie are brutal, tender—and out for blood when it comes to one another. Stella is focused on running as her ticket out of town and into college on a sports scholarship; her similarly gifted younger sister is slowly making her way into the top spot on their high school team. When newcomer Mila Keene joins the team, the sisters become entangled in a complex and ambivalent dynamic with her. When Mila goes missing while out on a run, it throws the sisters, their team, and the whole town into upheaval. Alternating first-person perspectives between Stella and Ellie, this thriller lays out two primary narratives—that of Mila’s heartbreaking case and the relationship between Stella and Ellie—and expertly layers them with a cold-case murder mystery and an exhilarating sports tale. This novel is also a thoughtful examination of socio-economic challenges, the impact of crushing personal secrets, and the ways female athletes suffer under the weight of misogyny, especially when they are aggressively competitive. Most characters read as White; the Steckler family is Jewish, and Stella is queer. Naomi, Mila’s best friend, is Korean American and lesbian.

A deftly layered sports thriller populated with fierce girls. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11432-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams.

K-POP CONFIDENTIAL

Who doesn’t want to be a K-pop idol?

Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan—but secretly, because she fears it’s a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee’s fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry’s actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay.

A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63993-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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