Reviews for Diamonds in the Shadow
Booklist Reviews 2007 September #1
Cooney's Connecticut church has sponsored war refugee families, and her stirring teen novel neither sensationalizes nor minimizes the brutality of their experiences. Her story unfolds through the alternating narratives of the American teens in a host family and African refugee teens, who can't forget what happened even as they adjust to their new surroundings and try to convince themselves they will eventually find a safe home. While Jared is angry that he has to share his room with Mattu and introduce the refugee at school, his younger sister tries to help Alake, who is mute and still. What horrors did Alake witness? Even in America, there's fear to be dealt with: a killer wants the uncut diamonds he forced Mattu and Alake to smuggle out for him. The climax is too neat, but tension mounts in a novel that combines thrilling suspense and a story about innocence lost. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #6
Cooney bases her latest page-turner on highly topical subject matter: African civil war and "blood diamonds." A suburban Connecticut household takes in a family of battle-scarred African refugees -- Andre, the father, has lost his hands -- not knowing that Victor, a cold-blooded killer, is hot on their trail. In fact, the "Amabo family" are not who they claim to be, but four desperate individuals who have banded together to escape a terrible past. The character roles are largely predetermined but well suited to the plot-driven novel. Jared is a typically self-centered American teen who has no interest in sharing his room or life with polite, refined Mattu, but he quickly becomes protective of his new guest family. Jared's bubbly little sister Mopsy decides from the start that she will "save" the silent and unresponsive young Alake. Meanwhile, Alake's behavior and the strange interactions among the supposed family members go unnoticed by all the cheerful and well-meaning adults helping out the Amabos, as do the contents of the boxes Mattu carried from Africa. Only Jared and Mopsy piece the clues together, and it is the four children who ultimately face down the evil Victor. The satisfying thriller introduces the complex issues of African civil war and violence with compassion, if not depth. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 September #1
Another teeth-clenching thriller from Cooney, this one with a social conscience. A middle-class family in Connecticut agrees through their church to shelter an African refugee family, never noticing abundant clues that the Amabos aren't a real family and that they have a dangerous past that has followed them from Africa. Cooney builds suspense by telling readers more than the almost incredibly naïve Finch family knows, setting up plot points wherein they'll know just what's going to happen, and then fooling them. She highlights the horrible conditions that have forced the decent Amabos to become less than honest as the looming danger of the real villain, on his way to collecting uncut diamonds the Amabos have smuggled into the country, moves the story forward. Affections, loyalties and a basic Christian message of love and redemption emerge as Cooney tempers her readers' anxiety with a measure of understanding while building to her climactic showdown. (author's note) (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 September #3
As in her earlier Agent Orange , Cooney deftly weaves events from the wider world into the warp and woof of everyday upper-middle-class life. High school student Jared Finch is cranky and skeptical when his mother decides to host their church-sponsored family of four African refugees in their well-appointed Connecticut home. Drawn in (just as readers will be) by the drama of the refugees' acclimatization to American suburbia, Jared soon warms to the Amabos, despite a growing suspicion that they aren't exactly who they say they are. Cooney keenly conveys the various motivations--an ever-changing blend of generosity and self-congratulation--of the family's hosts and church sponsors: "The committee loved hearing how good and generous they were. They sat tall. They took lemon bars as well as double-chocolate brownies." Breathless urgency arises from a plot twist that would seem far-fetched if it wasn't so convincingly narrated: the Amabos are being tracked by a merciless villain who will stop at nothing to recover the diamonds he has forced the Amabos to smuggle into the U.S. Further underscoring the concept that many shades of gray lie between absolute good and evil is a subplot about funds that have been embezzled from the Finches' church. Crackling language and nailbiting cliffhangers provide an easy way in to the novel's big ideas, transforming topics that can often seem distant and abstract into a grippingly immediate reading experience. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) [Page 55]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2007 September
Gr 6 Up-- When the Finches take in a church-sponsored refugee family from war-torn Sierra Leone, teenage Jared is annoyed that he has to share his room with Mattu, who is his age. Sixth-grader Mopsy, however, is thrilled to embrace Alake and wants to turn her into a "best" friend. Alake doesn't talk, barely eats, and is plagued by nightmares. Meanwhile, Kara Finch takes the Amabo parents under her wing, teaching them about conveniences such as microwaves. The family brings no luggage except for two boxes of cremated remains. Through snooping, Jared and Mopsy find uncut diamonds in the ashes. Unlike their parents, they realize that something is amiss in this family. The Amabos do not talk, or touch, or seem to care about each other. Cooney brilliantly contrasts the horror of Africa's civil wars with the overwhelming abundance and naivety of American suburban life. Jared's narcissism, selfishness, and racism disintegrate when he confronts true evil. How families mysteriously bond and care for one another is examined under the dramatic circumstances of two disparate groups trying to make things work. When Jared learns that Mattu never heard of the Holocaust, he is astonished. But, Mattu tells him, "We have those in Africa. I have been in one." Indeed, more than 60 years later, we are learning about ever-new Holocausts.--Lillian Hecker, Town of Pelham Public Library, NY [Page 194]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2007 October
Jared Finch is less than thrilled when his parents volunteer to take in a refugee family from Africa. Told in advance by the refugee society that "there are no good guys" in African civil wars, Jared expects the worst from the Amabo family (parents with two children), whom they have agreed to host. Unbeknownst to the Americans, there is a fifth refugee, Victor, arriving with the Amabos. The Amabos, all hiding secrets of their own, are afraid of this refugee. Victor trails after them, seeking something that the family carries. He is not a refugee as they are, but a former soldier looking for the Blood Diamonds that the Amabos have smuggled into AmericaTold from various points of view, this narrative is occasionally awkward, but the mystery of the Amabos' background and their connection to Victor help lead the reader along. Surly, narrow-minded Jared and his rambunctious, naïve sister, Mopsy, gradually round out into fuller characters as their African counterparts, Mattu and Alake, reveal their histories. Their ineffectual parents (at least they seem so when observed through the eyes of the other characters) remain somewhat shallow and distant throughout. Religion, charity, and humanity are central themes. The myriad of African problems might strike a chord with an unfamiliar audience, but they come across a bit heavyily at times. Standard fare, this book might appeal to fans of Cooney's other thrillers or to libraries looking for issue books.-Brenna Shanks PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90278-6. 3Q 3P M J S Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.