THE FALCON

Koller follows up A Place To Call Home (1995) with this raw, funny-if-it- weren’t-so-painful journal of a disabled teenager given to self-destructive behavior. Luke—big, good-natured, sensitive, popular, captain of the wrestling team—is nonetheless tortured by something he won’t put down in writing. His life has become a chain of disasters: He accidentally chops off his dog’s tail; he secretly borrows the family car to crash a party, and his best friend Hutch chucks all over it; at 17 he already has a long record of collisions and speeding tickets, even though he considers himself a careful driver. Koller gives alert readers enough clues that it isn’t a complete surprise when he finally works his way around to admitting that his left eye is artificial. That’s plainly not the reason for his self-loathing, though. Caught in a severe downward internal spiral, convinced of his worthlessness, he breaks up with his girlfriend, punctures his good eye, begins to see a pediatric psychologist in the hospital while his eye heals, and finds himself rooming with a former schoolmate who attempted suicide rather than tell his parents that he’s gay. Unsurprisingly, Luke’s perspective improves. While he often sounds whiny, Luke is an appealing character, and readers will keep turning the pages, waiting for Koller to drop in the next piece of the puzzle that lies at the heart of Luke’s anguish. A memorable case study in teenage guilt. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-689-81294-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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