Potok (The Chosen) turns out an uneven collection of six stories, each featuring a teenager in transition. Their predicaments, for the most part, are inventive and resonant: B.B.'s mother is at the hospital in labor when B.B.'s father leaves the cataclysmic message that he is walking out; Nava learns from her Vietnam-vet dad how to defend herself against a particularly aggressive drug pusher; Isabel's newly widowed mother meets and marries a widower with a daughter near Isabel's age. The title story, which opens the book, is the exception: predictable and flimsily peopled, it describes a gravely injured boy's psychic healing through an art class. The other entries allow for more ambiguity, leaving small lacunae in the narratives for intelligent readers to fill in. The characterizations, unfortunately, tend to be incomplete or unconvincing. Nava, for example, uses expressions like "about the time... my menstrual blood began to flow"; B.B.'s gender is kept a secret from the reader; drummer Moon Vinten, a rebellious 13-year-old who dyes his ponytail blue, tacks up Beatles photos in his bedroom. Readers who don't mind the somewhat wooden nature of the protagonists will probably enjoy the adult feel of Potok's suggestive silences. Ages 11-16. (Aug.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To quote KLIATT's July 1998 review of the hardcover edition: In these six stories, YAs must deal with grief and change as they struggle to understand the world and their place in it. Each story bears the name of its protagonist. In the title story, a boy nicknamed Zebra, who loved to run, has been badly injured in a crash with a car. He meets a one-armed Viet vet who teaches Zebra in a summer art class, and slowly Zebra's depression starts to lift and his hand begins to heal. In "B.B.," a family has experienced the loss of a child due to a genetic disorder, and B. B. and especially her father must come to terms with their fears now that the mother is pregnant again. Moon Vinten, in "Moon," is deeply affected by his encounter with a brave Pakistani boy who had been sold into slavery, while in "Nava" a teenage girl is harassed and then attacked by boys. In "Isabel," the title character must cope with her mother's remarriage and a new stepsister, while both are still mourning deaths in their families. In the final story, "Max," a girl aspires to step into the shoes of her heroic uncle Max, who was killed in Vietnam. These stories tackle serious subjects and are told directly and starkly (a sample opening: "When fourteen-year-old Isabel lost her father and her little brother, she crossed into a world enormous with emptiness and gray-lit with grief."). YAs may not pick up this collection on their own, but this is a good choice for the classroom; the first and last tales are especially strong, and "Moon" is also affecting and memorable. KLIATT Codes: JSARecommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1998, Random House/Knopf, 150p,18cm, 98-4769, $4.99. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Potok has written six wonderful stories about young adults and the problems they face growing up. Their families and situations are different, but their feelings are often very similar, and familiar. Grief, injuries, hopes, dreams, and the promises for their futures are catalogued by a master. The characters, even the minor ones, are not easily forgotten. Each story is a little gem.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Gr 9 Up-Exhibiting the same keen insight into the feelings, actions, and reactions of young adults that is apparent in his adult novels, Potok explores, in each of these six short stories, the manner in which his teen protagonists respond to personal crises or major life changes. Most often it is by means of a relationship with a new acquaintance, either real or imagined. Nearly all of the main characters deal with their problems-bodily injury, a devastating family secret, the death of a loved one, harassment, parental remarriage, a fascination with violent death-in ways that demonstrate the strength and goodness inherent in the human spirit. Some of the solutions are disturbingly nontraditional, and several touch on sensitive issues (for example, the thrill of hunting live game and the awakening of lesbian tendencies). All of the stories are thought-provoking and gripping; the characters and their personal dilemmas will linger with readers.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
In six quietly powerful stories, Potok (The Sky of Now, 1995; for adults, The Gates of November, 1996; etc.) explores varieties of inner and outer healing, both in individuals and in families: "Zebra" begins to regain use of his crushed hand and leg creating art assigned by an itinerant teacher; after the deaths of her father and brother, "Isabel" finds unexpected solace in the company of her new stepsister; the spirit of "Max," a larger-than-life family hero killed in Vietnam, resurfaces in the next generation not in his namesake, as expected, but in young Emmie; although her father returns after a brief desertion, "B.B." loses the utter trust of her childhood; "Moon" lets out his adolescent rage in an explosive musical tribute to a murdered Pakistani child slave. In the collection's haunting centerpiece, "Nava" uses her father's experiences in war, and his connection with a Navajo healer, to fend off a frighteningly persistent drug dealer. The families represented are all middle class or upper-middle class, but the relationships, the feelings of loss, grief, regret, hope, and relief are universal; readers sensitive to nuances of language and situation will be totally absorbed by these profound character studies. (Short stories. 11-15)