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Peter, an 11-year-old traffic fatality, finds himself looking down on his funeral as a voice offers him a do-over. He...

            Another ingenious but leaky story from Sleator (The Boxes, 1998, etc.), likely to leave readers more puzzled than intrigued.

            Peter, an 11-year-old traffic fatality, finds himself looking down on his funeral as a voice offers him a do-over.  He eagerly accepts, only to discover that the past has a stubborn momentum; he’s killed again, gets another chance, and blows that one, too.  Convinced that the key to survival lies in winning the appreciation of his clueless, cold-hearted parents, Peter displays consideration by waiting hand and foot on his pregnant mother, creativity by putting on an elaborate puppet show to explain his feelings, and cleverness by predicting local events that haven’t yet happened, then contriving to shift the resulting public furor onto a bullying classmate.  Apparently, all of this makes him a more thoughtful person, so his fatal attraction to passing automobiles ceases.  The premise, with its echoes of many books and movies, will only be new to very inexperienced readers, but the cheerlessness of Peter’s home life gives the whole story a drab cast, and the internal logic seems more convenient than consistent.  Sleator has a following, but he won’t win any new fans with this one.  (Fiction.  10-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46130-2

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains.

Myla and Peter step into the path of a gang when they unite forces to find Peter’s runaway brother, Randall.

As they follow the graffiti tags that Randall has been painting in honor of the boys’ deceased father, they uncover a sinister history involving stolen diamonds, disappearances, and deaths. It started long ago when the boys’ grandmother, a diamond-cutter, partnered with the head of the gang. She was rumored to have hidden his diamonds before her suspicious death, leaving clues to their whereabouts. Now everyone is searching, including Randall. The duo’s collaboration is initially an unwilling one fraught with misunderstandings. Even after Peter and Myla bond over being the only people of color in an otherwise white school (Myla is Indian-American; mixed-race Peter is Indian, African-American, and white), Peter can’t believe the gang is after Myla. But Myla possesses a necklace that holds a clue. Alternating first-person chapters allow peeks into how Myla, Peter, and Randall unravel the story and decipher clues. Savvy readers will put the pieces together, too, although false leads and red herrings are cleverly interwoven. The action stumbles at times, but it takes place against the rich backdrops of gritty New York City and history-laden Dobbs Ferry and is made all the more colorful by references to graffiti art and parkour.

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2296-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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