Reviews of the 2010 National Book Award Young People's Literature Finalists
Since Pearl’s father left the family, fifteen-year-old Pearl and her mother have been living in a guesthouse on Pearl’s uncle’s avocado ranch. Soon she has a new focus, finding herself completely smitten with Amiel, a young field worker, whose impaired voice leads him to communicate mostly through gesture and mime and who lives, illegally, in a self-made shelter by the river. A wary Amiel begins to return Pearl’s interest, allowing her in to some—but clearly not all—of his secrets as they become closer. When California fire season brings a conflagration that threatens the area, Pearl fears that Amiel, in his isolation, won’t have heard the order to evacuate, and her determination to save him sets in motion a series of events that will change the lives of Pearl and her family forever. McNeal is skilled at creating a vivid world and multidimensional characters while keeping her writing fluid and unlabored. Pearl’s fall for Amiel is a believable reaction from a girl who’s been abandoned by her father and whose best friend seems to be drifting away, but it’s also sultry and intense, with their leaving of messages and secret rendezvous bringing a romantic poetry to the relationship. The romance is more significant, however, for being the contact point between two stories, that of the extent of Amiel’s marginalization as an undocumented worker (with immigration checking the evacuation points, he can’t flee the fire) and that of Pearl’s family’s shifting dynamics, which get smashed violently into a new phase after her uncle’s death—a consequence of her actions—in the fire. Overall, it’s involving and thought-provoking, it’s got contemporary resonance, and it’s got a conclusion that readers will find hard to forget Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2010, Knopf, 304p.; Reviewed from galleys, $19.99 and $16.99 and E-book ed. $16.99. Grades 7-12. Reviewer: Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, October 2010 (Vol. 64, No. 2)).
Walter Dean Myers
One Crazy Summer
Readers will quickly come to adore Delphine, the eleven-year-old protagonist. Abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandparents, she has developed a naturally protective attitude toward her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. Now, for the first time, they are sent from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to visit their birth mother, Cecile. It happens to be the height of the Black Panther revolution. Although set in summer during the late 1960s, this is a story that today’s teen girls are likely to relate to on several different levels: the confusion of beginning to like boys, the complicated relationships with parents and siblings, and the innate responsibility that girls easily take for their younger brothers and sisters. On a broader level, it gives a unique perspective of a part of history not often seen in youth literature. The Black Panther aspect is thought-provoking, adding depth to the theme of Delphine’s family situation. Aside from the plot, the natural writing makes this a smooth read from start to finish, and the characters and situations are realistic. It is a “must” for library collections. 2010, HarperCollins Publishers, $15.99. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Cherie Ilg Haas (Children's Literature).
When fate intertwines with desperation and luck, the outcome can be both a curse and a blessing. In an advanced world, where huge cities have been sunken to the depths of the oceans, humanity thrives on luck and self preservation. In this twisted new world, Nailer has suffered tremendously since the death of his mother, watching his father become a dangerous, reckless alcoholic. Faced with no other choice but to follow in the footsteps of the one man with the strength to kill him, Nailer dedicates his survival to breaking down and stripping rotting oil tankers. Constantly overwhelmed by making quota, Nailer crawls into the deepest bowels of the decrepit ships to scavenge for wire for ungrateful bosses. Fate carries him through a near-death experience thwarted by a coworker, but refuses to leave his side as he narrowly escapes his menacing father and a massive hurricane that hits the Gulf Coast. Upon searching the beach after the destruction of the hurricane, Nailer finds a washed-up clipper ship full of enough silver to seriously change his luck for good. However, the ship holds one survivor, a lone girl who claims to be the heiress to a major shipping company. Desperate to forgo the life his father has doomed him for, he resolves to save the girl and help her find her father’s alliances up the coast. The sincere hope for a better life fuels his dedication to help the heiress, despite the incessant bad luck that follows him at every turn. 2009, Little Brown and Company/Hachette, Ages 14 to 18, $17.99. Reviewer: Patrice Russo Belotte (Children’s Literature).