Crossing by Andrew Xiz Fukuda

The book Crossing is the tale of Xing Xu, a young chinese immigrant who is one out of two asians attending an almost exclusively white high school in New York. With the onset of the school year, Xing again faces another period of prolonged social isolation with only his sole friend and fellow asian Naomi Lee for company. What Xing does not realize is that this autumn is going to be rather different than those of the past. Xing's high school is rocked with a series of bizarre disappearances and it is soon evident that a killer is on the loose. As police and the media swarm his hometown hunting for answers, Xing goes on a search of his own. While getting closer to discovering the murderer, an old ability from his past presents him with an opportunity. Xing's ability to sing catches the eye of the school's music teacher, who appoints him as the understudy for the lead role in the school musical. With the sudden disappearance of the lead, Xing is thrust into the limelight as his replacement. With his new position , Xing is given his opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his peers, and most importantly Naomi. As Xing prepares for the musical, the mystery of the killer remains unsolved, while police suspicion begins to fall on him.

When I first received this book, I thought this novel sounded interesting but feared it would be one of those cliché outcast saves the day kind of book however as soon as I started reading I realized I had picked up a truly unique novel and was quickly drawn into the story. The author did a wonderful job in creating Xing as a believe depiction of a disillusioned immigrant.Through Xing's thoughts, I received valuable insight on the plight of immigrants, as they must learn an entirely new language and customs as well as face alienation by the local populace. Being no stranger to isolation myself, I was quick to empathize with Xing and therefore found the outcome of the novel quite unsatisfactory. Overall, I found the book very enlightening and the storyline was superb except for that darned ending!

Four and a half daggers out of five,

Trooper Cordell


I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Elli Friedmann

Elli was thirteen years old; clever, ambitious, funny, and terribly excited about her new bike. She had friends and a crush and a wonderful family—a pretty good life. Until the Nazis invaded her town. In one fell swoop, her life came out from under her. Her school was closed permanently, and all of her hard work and top-notch grades were forgotten, disregarded. Her shiny new bike was confiscated, and her bright teenage clothes were spoiled by ugly yellow stars that were fastened, one by one, to her lapels. All because she was a Jew. Yet in a few months time she would be wishing desperately for the days when she was simply discriminated against, when at least her family was united and her dignity remained.

I Have Lived a Thousand Years is haunting, stirring, terrifying, and most frighteningly of all, real. The book is survivor Livia Bitton-Jackson's autobiographical account of the Holocaust. Only thirteen when her family was carted off to different concentration camps, Elli endured a year of different camps and horrors, staying alive only by a series of lucky chances. She was first confined to a ghetto with her family, then sent to Auschwitz, Plaszow, Auschwitz again, Ausburg, Waldlager and was ultimately liberated in 1945. Elli saw and survived the very worst horrors of the Holocaust.

And she holds nothing back. With terrifying detail she tells us of the whispers about the smoke that rose over Auschwitz, the sickening and unbelievable reality that was the human bodies that made it. She tells us of her nerves the night before decimation, a process in which the entire camp is lined up and set to face a firing squad. Every tenth person is shot, yet one never knows where the count will begin or who will be the doomed tenth. She describes legs and limbs shot off live bodies, skeletal prisoners working torturous twelve hour days, and the constant, deep, gnawing presence of hunger. She describes the sun blisters that cracked and oozed upon her shaven head, the biting burns that pierced her skin, and the sharp lash of the whip as it made contact with her young flesh.

The book is sickening yet riveting. Like an accident you can’t look away from, I Have Lived a Thousand Years is impossible to read yet impossible to put down. It is an incredible, horrible, fascinating book. The author speaks about the surprising extent of human cruelty, the horrors of the pain and the torture and the death that were brought about by people, good people, people who got caught up in unity and superiority and were diminished to mindless, brainwashed, murderous monsters. And her faith in humanity was extinguished at just thirteen. At thirteen, should have been attending dances and doing homework and coming home each day to her mother and father. Instead, she was forced to live in a concentration camp, holding her breath with anxiety each day as she waited to be sent to the gas chambers.

I have read a lot of Holocaust books for young adults, and many of them were excellent. But nothing even approaches the rawness and the truth and the prose that this book is. 5 daggers.



English Passengers by Matthew Kneale

Set in the mid-19th century, when British imperialism was at its pinnacle and explorers were mapping the last uncharted corners of the globe, English Passengers spins a delicious yarn of intrigue, torment, and reckless lawbreaking on the high seas and within the plains and forests of Tasmania. It is crewed by a fascinatingly diverse cast of characters, including a likable yet eccentric rum-smuggling captain by the name of Illiam Quillian Kewley, a motley band of seafaring Manxmen, an unlikely trio of obnoxious Brits, and a tormented tribe of indigenous Tasmanians.

Captain Kewley and the crew of his smuggling ship Sincerity are expecting a brief, profitable maiden voyage. But after enduring one misfortune after another, due to “prying British Customs men,” they are forced to take on passengers for charter to Tasmania. Reverend Wilson, Dr. Potter, and Timothy Renshaw promptly proceed to make life extremely difficult for each other and for the ship’s crew, resulting in a brilliantly written comedy of errors populated by the most outrageous fools ever to set foot on a ship.

But awaiting the travelers in Tasmania is something utterly unexpected. Interspersed with the humorous antics of the travelers is the heartwrenching narrative of Peevay, the son of a Tasmanian native and a British sailor, who describes with fierce emotion the torments his people have endured from British colonizers. The book’s two main subplots gradually become intertwined, finally merging near the end and drawing the reader into the novel’s uniquely satisfying conclusion.

Though I normally don’t like historical fiction as much as other types of literature, I enjoyed and deeply appreciated this book. It made me laugh out loud with its sidesplittingly hilarious wit, it brought tears to my eyes with its raw descriptions of horrors inflicted by men, all while managing to deliver a time-honored message of tolerance and peace without being tired or clichéd. The writing successfully captures the unique personality and regional dialect of each character while still reflecting the author’s eloquent voice and creating a thoughtful, polished piece.

The remarkable thing about English Passengers is how it manages to be so many things at once. This novel is a window into a time long past, a thrillingly adventurous romp, a first-rate comedy and a tale of real-world strife, all rolled into one. I award it five daggers without hesitation.