Fresh Girl, by Jaïra Placide is a fiction novel with a rating of 3 (on a scale of 1-4, 4 being the best). The most appropriate reader is a mature young adult, male or female, ages 14-18. I would recommend an older reader because of the political and personal violence seen by the main character. Mardi, the main character, is a fourteen- year old Haitian girl who is born in New York, but at age four moves to Haiti to be raised by her father's mother because of her own parent's financial difficulties. Her life in Haiti is filled with disturbing experiences of political violence, and mistreatment of women and children. When she finally returns to New York, at age 12 she is scarred by the haunting memories of her last days in Haiti. A major strength of the book is the vivid imagery of Mardi's daily life, and the fast, flowing, realistic dialogue. One weakness is the lack of details in the development of the other characters besides Mardi. The book is still eye-opening about the 1991 coup in Haiti and the people affected by those changes.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in San Francisco, - Link directly to entry
The Shell House, by Linda Newbery is a fictional novel with a rating of 3 (1-4, 4 being the best), for readers ages 14-18. I suggest an older teen reader because of the complex, and controversial themes. The main character is Greg, a seventeen year-old boy who is seeking to learn about himself through the plot device of the unfolding mystery of an old mansion that he is exploring. The other main characters are his two friends, Faith and Jordan, without whom his journey would be lonely and less meaningful. The Shell House is set in present day England. The symbol of the "shell" is important throughout the story as a metaphor for Greg's life and his relationships with his friends. His life has openings for new opportunities to learn about himself, like a shell can be curved and open to the world. Similarly, the old mansion without a roof is open for investigation, like the open shell. The main plot movement is about how Greg learns about himself and at the same time finds out about the previous owner of the mansion. Themes of homosexuality, depression, disability and self-revelation are explored. The Shell House falls down in its weak development using the metaphor about the "open house" and its parallel to Greg's openness to learning about himself. The symbol is briefly and interestingly developed, but then is quickly forgotten. A strength is the descriptive narrative, which is often hidden in lines about Greg's photographs. I recommend this book for mature readers who want to think beyond the main story line.
Reviewed by Katie. Grade: ----- in Menlo Park, - Link directly to entry