Sunday, June 1, 2008

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney

Main Characters: The Finches, a family in Connecticut, and the Amabos, a family of African refugees
Location: Connecticut
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Suspense

Jared Finch is not happy when he discovers that his mother has volunteered their family to host a family of African refugees. He is even less happy when he discovers that the arrangements for an apartment have fallen through and he will need to share his bedroom with the son. He notices something odd about this family--they don't act like a family. The parents don't look like their children; the son carries the ashes of his grandparents which his parents barely notice; and none of them seem to even acknowledge the daughter, who has been too traumatized by her experiences to speak. No one will pay attention to his concerns, thinking that he still resents having to share his room. How can he convince anyone of his suspicions, which just intensify when he discovers rough, uncut diamonds in the grandparents' ashes.

I like these new thrillers that Caroline Cooney is writing. This book and her previous Code Orange bring in elements of current global concerns--Code Orange deals with the threat of bio-terrorism and this one with the terrible civil wars in western Africa and the smuggling of blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds.

All of the characters are well-drawn and appealing. OK. so maybe Mrs. Finch is a little too enthusiastic is her desire to help, and maybe Mopsy is a little too annoying as the annoying little sister, but they all come through in a pinch. Jared and Mattu circle each other for a while, wary and suspicious, but they come to an understanding. Alake has the most heart-breaking story, feeling great guilt for something that she was powerless to prevent. Guilt and shame are big themes in this book, as are understanding and forgiveness.

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