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Black Juice

by Margo Lanagan

Published by U.S. edition: Eos / HarperCollins, 2005
208 pages
ISBN: 0-06074-390-5

Ages 14 - 17

In ten short stories, Australian writer Margo Lanagan explores more darkness than light, but relief comes in signs of the resiliency of the human spirit. All of the stories have fantastic settings that are not quite of this world as we know it; or perhaps our own world taken to extreme in its bleakness. But the actions of the characters, both human and non-human, are hauntingly real and familiar: they struggle, grieve, question, and long for hope in the midst of despair. Whether dealing with love, isolation, or betrayal, all of the stories reside in emotionally challenging terrain. In the first, a teenage girl has been sentenced to death in the tar pits, and the narrator, her resigned younger brother, describes events as her family participates in the ritual ceremony of “singing her down.” Each story is technically perfect. Characters emerge almost immediately through dialogue, which often drifts in and out of English as we know it. And they are rich with language. As a whole, this volume is intense in impact, but the beautiful and economical writing make it truly a fine example of a cohesive collection that is neither hopeful nor altogether despairing.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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