MEMORY BOY

A suburban family flees the breakdown of law and order following a massive natural disaster in this tense near-future tale. It’s 2008, and in the two years since Mount Rainier exploded, a steady rain of ash over much of the world has led to strict anti-pollution laws. Cars and trucks are virtually banned, electric power heavily rationed, fresh food has become a rare commodity—and horror stories of riots and rampant crime are starting to come out of the larger cities. Heading for a summer cabin, the Newells make a surreptitious exit from Minneapolis on a pedal- and wind-driven contraption cobbled together by 16-year-old Miles from bicycles and a sailboat’s mast. It’s a changing world through which they travel, in which small towns are closed or hostile, a fast-food breakfast costs nearly $100, and bandits on motorbikes prey on unwary strangers. Worse, the cabin, when they reach it, is already full of refugees who aren’t inclined to move on. As in his other books (Hard Ball, 1998, etc.), Weaver has made this a male-oriented story, in which the men do most of the planning, fighting, and bonding, while the women may not always be passive bystanders but tend to cause more problems than they solve. Stubbornly aliterate but gifted with both an eidetic memory and great mechanical aptitude, Miles makes a memorable narrator/hero—not infallible, but competent enough, in the end, to lead his family to a place of safety. An absorbing tale set against a disturbing, plausibly developed background. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-028811-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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F IS FOR FABULOSO

In an earnest, preachy tale from Lee (Night of the Chupacabras, 1998, etc.), a Korean-American seventh grader copes with poor teaching in school and rising tension at home. Two years after moving to Minnesota, Jin-Ha’s mother is still trapped in the family apartment, so afraid to attempt English that she’s unable to shop without a translator, and so isolated that she doesn’t know what the F at the top of Jin-Ha’s math test means. Driven by guilt and humiliation, Jin-Ha resolves to study harder; she gets no help from her lazy, inflexible, insensitive (“You Japanese are going to beat our butts”) teacher, but finds an unexpected ally in hunky classmate Grant Hartwig. In public, he calls her a “friggin’ jap math geek,” justifying himself by saying, “That’s how guys are. You have to prove that you can dish it out and take it, too,” but in private he morphs into a patient math tutor. To compound Jin-Ha’s worries, her father takes to coming home late nearly every night with a vague excuse. The situations are resolved amid a welter of confessions (Jin-Ha’s father is working a second job), stern lectures, and fervent promises, capped by a warm, fuzzy Christmas scene. Although often perceptive, this study in cultural acclimation is weighed down by artificial-sounding dialogue and scarily simplistic characters. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 1999

ISBN: 0-380-97648-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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