THE FINCH FAMILY did not know that five refugees landed from Africa on the day they went to the airport to welcome the family sponsored by their church. The Finch family only knew about the four refugees they were meeting - Andre, Celestine, Mattu, and Alake - mother, father, teenage son and daughter.
Soon Jared realizes that the good guys are not always innocent, and he must make a decision that could change the fate of both families. This story presents many points of view and a fresh perspective on doing the right thing.
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.)
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Delacorte Books for Young Readers
September 23, 2007
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Excerpt from Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney
Chapter One IN AFRICA, FIVE PEOPLE GOT on a plane. In America, twelve people attended a committee meeting at the Finches' house. This was not unusual, but Jared Finch didn't see why he was required to attend. Like all the causes Jared's mother and father took up--raising a zillion dollars for a church addition or tutoring grown-ups who couldn't read--bringing refugees from Africa was completely not of interest to Jared. His mother and father seemed to be avoiding his eye, and even staying on the far side of the room. Even more suspicious, when the minister finished his opening prayer, he said, "Jared and Mopsy, thank you for coming." Everybody beamed at Jared and Mopsy. Twelve adults were grateful to have the most annoying little sister in Connecticut at their meeting? Smiling at Jared, who prided himself on being a rather annoying teenager? "The apartment we found for our refugee family fell through," Dr. Nickerson told the committee. "We don't have a place for them to live and the four of them are arriving tomorrow." Jared Finch could not care less where some refugee family lived. "Drew and Kara Finch have generously volunteered to take the family in," said Dr. Nickerson. The room applauded. Jared stared at his parents in horror. The refugees were coming here? His little sister, a mindlessly happy puppy of a kid, cried out in delight. If Mopsy had ever had an intelligent thought in her life, she kept it to herself. "Yay!" cried Mopsy. "It'll be like sleepovers every night." Jared gagged. "You see, Jared, we have a lovely guest suite," said his mother, as if he didn't live here and wouldn't know, "where the parents can stay and have their own bathroom." This implied that there were kids who would not be staying in the guest suite. So they would be staying where, exactly? "Your room and Mopsy's are so spacious, Jared darling," his mother went on. "And you each have two beds, for when your friends spend the night. And your own bathrooms! It's just perfect, isn't it?" Jared's mother and father had volunteered his bedroom for a bunch of African refugees? And not even asked him? "I'm supposed to share my bedroom with some stranger?" he demanded. Jared did not share well. It had been a problem since nursery school. Mrs. Lane, a woman Jared especially loathed, because he was fearful that Mopsy would grow up to be just like her--stout and still giggling--said excitedly, "That's why your family's offer is so magnificent, Jared." Jared figured her last name was actually Lame. "You will guide and direct young people who would otherwise be confused and frightened by the new world in which they find themselves," cried Mrs. Lame. She definitely had somebody else in mind. Jared did not plan to guide and direct anybody. Jared's bedroom was his fortress. It had his music, his video games, his television and his computer. It was where he made his phone calls. As for Africa, Jared knew nothing about the entire continent except what he'd seen on nature shows, where wild animals were always migrating or else eating each other. But about Africans themselves, aside from the occasional Jeep driver, TV had nothing to say. And there was always more important stuff on the news than Africa, like weather or celebrities. Jared would be forced to hang out with some needy non-English-speaking person in clothes that didn't fit? Escort that person into his own school? Act glad? "I decline," said Jared. "The church signed a contract, Jared," said Dr. Nickerson. "We are responsible for this family." "I didn't sign anything," said Jared. "I don't have a responsibility." The committee glared at Jared. Jared glared right back. They weren't volunteering to share their bedrooms. No, they could force tw