BULLYVILLE

When eighth-grader Bart Rangely wakes with a fever, his mother stays home from work. They’re sensitive because Bart’s dad recently left his mom for another woman. But the day Bart stays home is no ordinary day; it’s 9/11 and Bart’s flu saves his mother’s life but not that of his Wall Street dad. Because of this, Bart is offered a scholarship to a deluxe private school, Bailywell Preparatory Academy. At “Bullyville,” the 13-year-old is, as expected, bullied by his “big brother.” The second half of Prose’s story has less talk and a little more action, but not much. The story features four distinct ideas—9/11, bullying, dealing with bullying and service learning—that are soldered together to make one narrative. No writer really needs a 9/11 pretext to address bullying. Readers may also wonder about Bart, who sounds too introspective for an eighth-grade boy. The final pages reveal the narrator’s age: He’s a grown man with a family of his own. If Bart is in eighth grade in 2001, how can he be old enough to be a father in a realistic novel published in 2007? Someday, this won’t matter, but in the meantime, it’s just one more flaw in a forced and artificial story. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-057497-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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