For 12 Hours in Paradise
Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
“Kathryn Berla’s 12 Hours in Paradise is a young adult romance/coming of age novel. Neither Dorothy nor her ten-year-old brother, Chester, were looking forward to leaving Hawaii the next morning. They’d be returning to the cold and snow of winter in Nevada, and, as they weren’t skiers, saw no real benefits to winter over the warm sands and ocean breezes of this island paradise. They were on their way back to the hotel for their last happy hour when Chester’s eyes were drawn to the free cookie samples just waiting for him on the Honolulu Cookie Company’s shelves. Chester, as usual, made a point of being a huge embarrassment for his sixteen-year-old sister and began grabbing at the samples barehanded. As Dorothy tried to wrestle him away, she heard someone say “ouch” as she backed into a blond-haired, blue-eyed guy who left her feeling a bit speechless and definitely flustered. He scooped out a chocolatey sample for Chester, and Dorothy propelled her little brother out the door. Chester started teasing Dorothy about the boy who liked her, and she brushed off everything he said, but when he said the boy was following her, she was surprised when she turned and saw a dark-haired guy with glasses trying to catch up with them in order to return Chester’s sunglasses. Chester insisted that that was the guy all along, and Dorothy and Arash started talking. He accompanied them to the happy hour, and, as they chatted, Dorothy began to realize Arash was not like any other boy she had ever known.
Kathryn Berla’s young adult romance/coming of age novel, 12 Hours in Paradise, kept me enthralled throughout the entire twelve hours Dorothy and Arash spend answering questions and experiencing Honolulu after dark. The author’s use of a newspaper questionnaire to start off their adventure is an original device that works marvelously, not only to help Dorothy and Arash get to know each other, but to keep the reader interactively involved as each thought-provoking question is posed and answered. I loved seeing Honolulu at night and especially enjoyed the walks the two of them share along the beaches. Berla’s plot takes advantage of that special and all-too-rare circumstance where time seems to slow down and last forever, where each minute seems to hang in the air, waiting for the next to take its place. Her characters have depth, passion and courage as they confront their demons and dare to dream of their futures. Kathryn Berla’s 12 Hours in Paradise is intelligent, heart-warming, and altogether a phenomenal read. It’s most highly recommended.”
For LITHIUM LUKE AND HIS GAL PAL PEANUT (KIRKUS REVIEW)
“In a world where everyone is very, very special, Luke is decidedly not. People in his world can jump high, sing like songbirds, make the best pizza and solve impossible math problems instantly, whereas Luke doesn’t do anything that sets him apart, other than the fact that he runs on batteries. On his 12th birthday, a time when his people traditionally reveal their specialness to the world, he proclaims that he is ordinary. Of course, this, in itself, makes him special, and the citizens go crazy for “Lithium Luke.” They ask his advice on such matters as what to eat for dinner or how to think about “nothing.” One day, Luke decides that he wants to become a horse, which will make him special at last. Accompanied by his dog, Kooldez; his gal pal, Peanut; and her pet pink snail, he journeys to find a suitable horse to instruct him on how to accomplish his goal. During the journey, they face many obstacles, including a tiger-striped leopard, an ornery horse (without horse sense) and a crazy king, and contend with Luke’s consistently dying batteries. Is he destined to be ordinary for the rest of his life? There’s quite a bit going on in this offbeat, fantastical work. It’s fun and wildly imaginative and sure to inspire some giggles from readers of all ages.”–Kirkus Reviews
For THE HOUSE AT 758 …(LA CASA 758) KIRKUS REVIEW
“A debut YA novel that grapples with a slew of difficult issues, including grief, stepfamilies, loneliness and first love.
Sixteen-year-old Krista is having a hard time. She’s still grieving the recent death of her mother when her father’s girlfriend, Marie, moves into their home, and Krista feels like there’s no one she can talk to about her sadness. To make matters worse, her best friend, Lyla, is heading to Maine to spend time with her grandparents. As the novel unfolds, Krista feels pressure from the people around her to resume a normal life; her father wants her to find an activity to occupy her summer, and her neighbor encourages her to return to therapy. However, Krista doesn’t feel ready to be “normal” again; she’d rather shoplift, spend time in her tent on the roof, and sit in her car watching a mysterious house. Just when things start to feel too hard for her to bear, she meets Jake, the cute sales associate at a store where she shoplifts, and her father informs her that her grandfather, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who lives in Venezuela, is coming to town for a visit. With these new developments, Krista begins to open up and embrace life again, and she gains a greater understanding of her family’s past and what she has to look forward to in life. Berla does an outstanding job of portraying the many issues teenagers grapple with, including first relationships, loss, alienation and low self-esteem. The book’s subject matter is relevant and relatable, and its plot is suspenseful and compelling, with a few important twists and turns at the end. Berla’s prose is beautiful and poignant, with elegant, effective metaphors; for example, Krista’s grandfather tries to explain to her how to rebuild her life after loss by using a metaphor of soup. A mixture of salt and water isn’t good to drink, he says, but when you “add juices from carrots and tomatoes and some other vegetables…the broth of the chicken and maybe some cream,” then “[y]ou can drink a whole bowl of it….Keep adding to your life—a little bit this, a little bit that. The salt is still there, but one day you won’t notice.”
A moving, mysterious coming-of-age story.”
Published in Spain by Penguin Random House.
For DREAM ME
Reviewed By Faridah Nassozi for Readers’ Favorite – 5 Stars
What would you do if the greatest love of your life only came to you in your dreams? Due to the nature of her father’s job, Babe’s family lived a nomadic life and as such they never stayed in any one place long enough for her to form any roots. This always made her feel like an outsider wherever she went. Meanwhile, in another time realm many many years ahead of Babe’s era, someone shared the lonely feeling. All life on Zat’s planet was on the brink of extinction, and everyone was looking for an alternative planet that would hopefully be more hospitable to human life. However, Zat had chosen a different path; choosing to travel back in time so he could experience the beauty of Earth only known through words written long ago. But that was not the only motivation for his choice, for in his dreams lived a beautiful red-headed girl who he could only meet by going back in time. Even if they managed to make contact through their dreams, what would it mean for them? Could there be hope for Babe and Zat beyond the dreams?
Dream Me by Kathryn Berla is the perfect blend of alluring YA romance, sci-fi, fantasy, and a most profound message for humanity. I loved the depth of both the message and the characters in Dream Me, and how Kathryn Berla crafted both together to produce one of the most compelling YA stories I have read. The story delivers a warning to all of us about where our planet is headed unless something is done to alter this course. It is a much needed reminder that while we enjoy the various advancements mankind has achieved, we should always be mindful of the adverse effects these have on our climate … or else we will find ourselves on Zat’s kind of Earth where all the gifts from Mother Nature we take for granted are extinct. I especially admired how the novel was tailored to appeal to the section of our generation in whose hands lies our hope for a better tomorrow. May they have the wisdom to undo the wrongs past generations have done to Mother Earth before it’s too late.
GOING PLACES (KIRKUS REVIEW)
A multifaceted coming-of-age story about a teenage boy’s forays into love, lust, and entrepreneurship.
At the start of Berla’s (The House at 758) book, 17-year-old aspiring graphic novelist Hudson Wheeler, facing his senior year in high school, formulates a plan. He writes an email to his mother asking if she can home-school him for his final year. Not only has he lost the company of his two best friends (to a school transfer and a new girlfriend), but he has also decided that traditional education is no longer relevant to him. Hudson wants to spend his life writing graphic novels and traveling the world, and he has already started two businesses: a dog-walking enterprise and a company called “Distress Dial,” which handles non–911 emergencies for seniors. His mom agrees to his proposal with three stipulations: he must attend school to take physical education and art classes; pay rent; and “apply to two (2) colleges for which he has a reasonable chance of being accepted.” Happy with his newfound freedom, Hudson chooses a yoga class to fulfill the physical education requirement, and there he meets a beautiful girl named Alana Love, with whom he becomes smitten. The novel follows Hudson as he attempts to navigate the world of an independent-minded, business-owning student who thinks he is in love. The story tracks Hudson’s relationships with Alana (who is dating the quarterback of the school’s football team), his friends Fritzy and Gus, and several of his Distress Dial clients—particularly Mr. Pirkle, a 90-year-old World War II veteran showing signs of dementia. The book’s varied structure—which includes Hudson’s emails, to-do lists, and prose narrated in first person—often feels more like a journal than a novel, but this ultimately makes for a more intimate and revealing account of the day-to-day life of a teenager. Berla’s lively dialogue also enriches the story’s authenticity, and she peppers it with contemporary buzzwords like “selfie” and “texts” throughout to make characters’ conversations feel truer and more relevant. The charming story is mostly heartwarming and light, with convincing portrayals of teenagers attempting to distinguish between lust and a desire for companionship. But the book also deals with more serious topics like grief, aging, illness, and heartbreak—making it both entertaining and poignant.
A delightful, realistic novel about a lovable high school senior dealing with normal—and not-so-normal—teenage issues.