cover image Diamonds in the Shadow

Diamonds in the Shadow

Caroline B. Cooney, . . Delacorte, $15.99 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73261-1

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.)