An incredibly relevant story, now more than ever.

ALL THE STARS DENIED

Estrella loves poetry and the natural world, but her days of lying in the fields and writing come to a halt when she is repatriated to Mexico.

Estrella’s family owns Rancho las Moras—a rarity in Texas, where they are increasingly surrounded by Anglo incomers, and a safe haven, not just from the Great Depression, but from the Rangers, who are rounding up mexicanos and repatriating them to Mexico, without regard to the fact that many are actually U.S. citizens. Walking in the footsteps of her activist parents, Estrella helps to organize a protest against the treatment of the tejanos in her town of Monteseco, with devastating results. Her family quickly becomes a target for the Rangers, and Estrella finds herself in Mexico, separated from her family. Here, she begins a journey for her survival as she attempts to reunite with her family and make it home to her country of birth, the United States of America. Beautifully and poetically written, the book includes Spanish words and Mexican-American cultural elements to make it a vividly authentic mirror for some readers and a universally appealing and engaging window for others. Enhanced by excerpts from Estrella’s journal, teens will get lost in the pages of this story and truly feel for the injustice the community faced during this often forgotten chapter of American history.

An incredibly relevant story, now more than ever. (author’s note, further reading, glossary) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62014-281-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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