DO NOT PASS GO

Deet’s parents are happy-go-lucky and financially irresponsible, so he compensates by being compulsively organized and extremely judgmental. Early on, his dad is working a second job to help pay bills and gets arrested for possessing drugs to help him stay alert. Initially, Deet is utterly mortified and embarrassed. His mother gets a job and Deet realizes he has to go visit his dad in jail, a terrifying prospect. Many visits later, Deet undergoes a transformation. He learns not to be contemptuous of the prisoners—a number of schoolmates have relatives there—and he realizes that the most unexpected people can be the most thoughtful. Hill is an expressive writer who realistically conveys this boy’s journey from superiority to kindness. She renders the criminals as real people, noting that illiteracy is at the root of many objectionable behaviors. Unfortunately, in a story where the whole tenet is not to judge a book by its cover, frequent snide remarks about overweight people seem out of place and cloud the moral. Still, this powerful character study, where everyone in Deet’s family grows, shows that Hill has a gift for quietly but realistically portraying the journey. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2007

ISBN: 1-4169-1400-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This is a minor quibble with a story that imagines so clearly for American readers the travails of all-too-many Latin...

BEFORE WE WERE FREE

A 12-year-old girl bears witness to the Dominican Revolution of 1961 in a powerful first-person narrative.

The story opens as Anita’s cousins (the Garcia girls of Alvarez’s 1991 adult debut, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents), hurriedly pack to leave the country. This signals the end of childhood innocence for Anita. In short succession, her family finds the secret police parked in their driveway; the American consul moves in next door; and her older sister Lucinda is packed off to join her cousins in New York after she attracts the unwelcome attention of El Jefe Trujillo, the country’s dictator. Anita’s family, it seems, is intimately involved with the political resistance to Trujillo, and she, perforce, is drawn into the emotional maelstrom. The present-tense narrative lends the story a gripping immediacy, as Anita moves from the healthy, self-absorbed naïveté of early adolescence to a prematurely aged understanding of the world’s brutality. Her entree into puberty goes hand in hand with her entree into this adult world of terror: “I don’t want to be a señorita now that I know what El Jefe does to señoritas.” According to an author’s note, Alvarez (How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay, 2001, etc.) drew upon the experiences of family members who stayed behind in the Dominican Republic during this period of political upheaval, crafting a story that, in its matter-of-fact detailing of the increasingly surreal world surrounding Anita, feels almost realer than life. The power of the narrative is weakened somewhat by the insertion of Anita’s diary entries as she and her mother take shelter in the Italian Embassy after her father’s arrest. The first-person, present-tense construction of the diary entries are not different enough from the main narrative to make them come alive as such; instead, the artifice draws attention to itself, creating a distraction.

This is a minor quibble with a story that imagines so clearly for American readers the travails of all-too-many Latin nations then and now. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-81544-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more