WHO PUT THAT HAIR IN MY TOOTHBRUSH?

Greg, 15, put that hair in the toothbrush of sister Megin, age twelve. "Sibling rivalry," says Dad, a stubborn Pollyanna type. More like "sibling homicide," mutters their weary Mom, who has lately turned to spells of self-hypnosis in order to remove herself from the battlefront. And Spinelli, using Greg and Megin as alternating narrators, offers a breezy yet fierce, often slapsticky evocation of brother/ sister hostilities here—while giving the two kids believable other concerns too. Greg calls Megin "Megamouth"; he's appalled by her filthy room, sure that she'll bring on an infestation of cockroaches. ("They're having the World's Fair for Bacteria in there.") But Greg's primary interest in life is beautiful Jennifer Wade, for whom he's redone his appearance (bodybuilding, "Sassooned" hair, etc.); and he blithely exploits the crush of not-so-pretty Sara to make contact with her elusive friend Jennifer, repenting later. Meanwhile, Megin calls Greg "El Grosso," incorrigibly plants a cockroach in his room, and provokes him into food-fights. Her affections belong instead to kiddie-brother Todd; to ice-hockey idol Wayne Gretzky; to a friendly Dunkin' Donuts waitress (who gives her freebies); to fellow tomboy Emilie, 89, a chance acquaintance whom Megin visits regularly in a nearby nursing home; and to classmates like ordinary Sue Ellen and extraordinary Zoe—a newcomer from California who fills a bra and wears green toenail polish. Will Greg and Megin eventually reach a genuine truce? Of course. But only after the warfare gets out of hand (violence on the ice)—and after Emilie's unexpected death brings Megin to the breaking-point. . . and Greg to the brotherly rescue. (As it happens, the quest for Megin's beloved, sunken hockey-stick winds up with sister saving brother.) As in Space Station Seventh Grade (1982), then, Spinelli keeps things very light most of the way through, shading into more serious feelings—with considerable finesse—only at the end. So the upshot, if never really distinguished, is bright, personable, and reasonably lifelike—with nice average kids, unusually low-key/amusing parents, and a sure balance between farce and sentiment.

Pub Date: May 1, 1984

ISBN: 0316806870

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1984

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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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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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