Evangelical Christian author Davis (Transparent) has created a sobering yet thoroughly satisfying primer on women's friendships. Davis, vice president of marketing/development for her father, who heads Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, presents a bold and touching view of the whys and wherefores of female relationships. She offers her own friendships as illustrations of the types of friendships women keep. Chapter by chapter, Davis discusses varying roles women adopt; how space between two people is sometimes healthy; when-or if-confrontation is called for; the possibilities of circles of friends and their survival rate; and much more. Readers will find the author's observations distinctive and instructive; they afford women the opportunity to review their own past and present friendships. While Davis's text is thoroughly sound and biblically on track, an overall sad note is woven into her conclusions about women and their ways with one another. (July 21)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Pat Trattles
Jared Finch is a typical teenage boy growing up in a privileged Connecticut neighborhood. Mattu Amabo is a teenage refugee escaping a life of terror in Africa. The two boys are thrown together when the Finches agree to host the Amabo family temporarily until they can find permanent housing in America. Jared's younger sister, Mopsy, is excited about welcoming Alake, Mattu's sister, into her life, but to say Jared is less than thrilled with the idea is an understatement. And the more Jared gets to know the Amabo family, the more things just don't add up. The Amabos don't talk to each other much, don't touch or hug, and don't seem to even care much for each other. They act more like four strangers than family. Meanwhile, a fifth refugee has entered the country undetected. He is after the Amabo family, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Told in alternating points of view among the four youngsters and the lawless fifth refugee, this suspense-filled tale will keep readers engaged until the very end. Cooney has done an outstanding job of contrasting the horrors of African civil war with the relative abundance and complacency of suburban America. Although a work of fiction, it is the kind of story that will give readers pause to consider the world outside their neighborhood comfort zone, making it a great complement to high school social studies curricula and an important addition to high school reading lists. Reviewer: Pat Trattles
VOYA - Brenna Shanks
Jared Finch is less than thrilled when his parents volunteer to take in a refugee family from Africa. Told in advance by the refugee society that "there are no good guys" in African civil wars, Jared expects the worst from the Amabo family (parents with two children), whom they have agreed to host. Unbeknownst to the Americans, there is a fifth refugee, Victor, arriving with the Amabos. The Amabos, all hiding secrets of their own, are afraid of this refugee. Victor trails after them, seeking something that the family carries. He is not a refugee as they are, but a former soldier looking for the Blood Diamonds that the Amabos have smuggled into America. Told from various points of view, this narrative is occasionally awkward, but the mystery of the Amabos' background and their connection to Victor help lead the reader along. Surly, narrow-minded Jared and his rambunctious, nanve sister, Mopsy, gradually round out into fuller characters as their African counterparts, Mattu and Alake, reveal their histories. Their ineffectual parents (at least they seem so when observed through the eyes of the other characters) remain somewhat shallow and distant throughout. Religion, charity, and humanity are central themes. The myriad of African problems might strike a chord with an unfamiliar audience, but they come across a bit heavyily at times. Standard fare, this book might appeal to fans of Cooney's other thrillers or to libraries looking for issue books.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up
When the Finches take in a church-sponsored refugee family from war-torn Sierra Leone, teenage Jared is annoyed that he has to share his room with Mattu, who is his age. Sixth-grader Mopsy, however, is thrilled to embrace Alake and wants to turn her into a "best" friend. Alake doesn't talk, barely eats, and is plagued by nightmares. Meanwhile, Kara Finch takes the Amabo parents under her wing, teaching them about conveniences such as microwaves. The family brings no luggage except for two boxes of cremated remains. Through snooping, Jared and Mopsy find uncut diamonds in the ashes. Unlike their parents, they realize that something is amiss in this family. The Amabos do not talk, or touch, or seem to care about each other. Cooney brilliantly contrasts the horror of Africa's civil wars with the overwhelming abundance and naivety of American suburban life. Jared's narcissism, selfishness, and racism disintegrate when he confronts true evil. How families mysteriously bond and care for one another is examined under the dramatic circumstances of two disparate groups trying to make things work. When Jared learns that Mattu never heard of the Holocaust, he is astonished. But, Mattu tells him, "We have those in Africa. I have been in one." Indeed, more than 60 years later, we are learning about ever-new Holocausts.
Lillian HeckerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Another teeth-clenching thriller from Cooney, this one with a social conscience. A middle-class family in Connecticut agrees through their church to shelter an African refugee family, never noticing abundant clues that the Amabos aren't a real family and that they have a dangerous past that has followed them from Africa. Cooney builds suspense by telling readers more than the almost incredibly naive Finch family knows, setting up plot points wherein they'll know just what's going to happen, and then fooling them. She highlights the horrible conditions that have forced the decent Amabos to become less than honest as the looming danger of the real villain, on his way to collecting uncut diamonds the Amabos have smuggled into the country, moves the story forward. Affections, loyalties and a basic Christian message of love and redemption emerge as Cooney tempers her readers' anxiety with a measure of understanding while building to her climactic showdown. (author's note) (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, September 17, 2007:
"Crackling language and nailbiting cliffhangers provide an easy way into the novel's big ideas, transforming topics that can often seem distant and abstract into a grippingly immediate reading experience."
Read an Excerpt
IN AFRICA, FIVE PEOPLE GOT on a plane.
In America, twelve people attended a committee meeting at the Finches' house. This was not unusual, but Jared Finch didn't see why he was required to attend.
Like all the causes Jared's mother and father took upraising a zillion dollars for a church addition or tutoring grown-ups who couldn't readbringing refugees from Africa was completely not of interest to Jared.
His mother and father seemed to be avoiding his eye, and even staying on the far side of the room. Even more suspicious, when the minister finished his opening prayer, he said, "Jared and Mopsy, thank you for coming."
Everybody beamed at Jared and Mopsy. Twelve adults were grateful to have the most annoying little sister in Connecticut at their meeting? Smiling at Jared, who prided himself on being a rather annoying teenager?
"The apartment we found for our refugee family fell through," Dr. Nickerson told the committee. "We don't have a place for them to live and the four of them are arriving tomorrow."
Jared Finch could not care less where some refugee family lived.
"Drew and Kara Finch have generously volunteered to take the family in," said Dr. Nickerson.
The room applauded.
Jared stared at his parents in horror. The refugees were coming here?
His little sister, a mindlessly happy puppy of a kid, cried out in delight. If Mopsy had ever had an intelligent thought in her life, she kept it to herself. "Yay!" cried Mopsy. "It'll be like sleepovers every night."
"You see, Jared, we have a lovely guest suite," said his mother, as if he didn't live here and wouldn't know, "where the parents can stay and have their own bathroom."
This implied that there were kids who would not be staying in the guest suite. So they would be staying where, exactly?
"Your room and Mopsy's are so spacious, Jared darling," his mother went on. "And you each have two beds, for when your friends spend the night. And your own bathrooms! It's just perfect, isn't it?"
Jared's mother and father had volunteered his bedroom for a bunch of African refugees? And not even asked him? "I'm supposed to share my bedroom with some stranger?" he demanded. Jared did not share well. It had been a problem since nursery school.
Mrs. Lane, a woman Jared especially loathed, because he was fearful that Mopsy would grow up to be just like herstout and still gigglingsaid excitedly, "That's why your family's offer is so magnificent, Jared."
Jared figured her last name was actually Lame.
"You will guide and direct young people who would otherwise be confused and frightened by the new world in which they find themselves," cried Mrs. Lame.
She definitely had somebody else in mind. Jared did not plan to guide and direct anybody. Jared's bedroom was his fortress. It had his music, his video games, his television and his computer. It was where he made his phone calls. As for Africa, Jared knew nothing about the entire continent except what he'd seen on nature shows, where wild animals were always migrating or else eating each other. But about Africans themselves, aside from the occasional Jeep driver, TV had nothing to say. And there was always more important stuff on the news than Africa, like weather or celebrities.
Jared would be forced to hang out with some needy non-English-speaking person in clothes that didn't fit? Escort that person into his own school? Act glad? "I decline," said Jared.
"The church signed a contract, Jared," said Dr. Nickerson. "We are responsible for this family."
"I didn't sign anything," said Jared. "I don't have a responsibility."
The committee glared at Jared.
Jared glared right back. They weren't volunteering to share their bedrooms. No, they could force two handy kids to do it. "My sister and I are the only ones who actually have to do any sharing? You guys get to contribute your old furniture or worthless televisions that you didn't want anyway for when these guys get their own place, but meanwhile Mopsy and I have to take them in?" He hoped to make the committee feel guilty. Everybody did look guilty but also really relieved, because of course they didn't want to share a bedroom either.
"It'll be so wonderful!" cried Mopsy, hugging herself. "Is there going to be a girl who can be my best friend?"
It was getting worse. People would expect Jared to be best friends with this person who would invade his life. "What went wrong with the rental?" asked Jared, thinking he would just kill whoever was getting the apartment, thus freeing it up again for these refugees.
"The owner's eighty-year-old grandmother, who's blind, is moving in with her caregiver."
Oh, please. That was such a lie. How many eighty-year-old blind grandmothers suddenly had to move in with their caregiver? The owners were probably remodeling so they could sell the place for a million dollars instead.
"What are we supposed to do, Jared?" asked Dr. Nickerson in his most religious voice. "Abandon four people on the sidewalk?"
They'd been abandoned anyway; that was what it meant to be a refugee. Jared opened his mouth to say so, but a movement from his father caught his eye. Dad was sagging in his chair, deaf and blind to the meeting. Having a family of refugees in the house probably wasn't his choice either; Mom had saddled him with it. He wasn't on this committee, and the last committee on which Dad had served had gone bad. His co-chairman had turned out to be a felon and a bum. But Jared had more important things to worry about right now. "How long are these guys supposed to live here?" he demanded.
"We don't know," admitted the minister. "This is an expensive town. We're going to have trouble finding a low-cost rent for people earning minimum wage. We probably found the only place there is, and now it's gone. We'll have to look in the cities nearbyNew London, New Haven. And probably in bad neighborhoods. It's a problem we didn't anticipate."
Jared never prayed, because the idea of a loving God seemed out of sync with the facts of the world. Nevertheless, Jared prayed now. Please, God, don't let there be a boy in this family. Make Mopsy do all the sharing. I can squeeze my extra twin bed into her room. I'll even move it cheerfully. "What do we know about these guys?" he said.
"Very little." Dr. Nickerson waved a single sheet of paper. He handed it to the person sitting farthest away from Jared, ensuring that Jared would be the last to know the grim truth. "That's why we've gathered here tonight. Let me introduce our representative from the Refugee Aid Society, Kirk Crick."
What kind of name was that? It sounded like a doll Mopsy would collect. And what was up with Kirk Crick that he couldn't even photocopy enough pages for everybody to have one? It didn't exactly give Jared faith in the guy's organizational skills.