cover image YOSS


Odo Hirsch, . . Delacorte, $18.99 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-385-90224-3

Hirsch (Bartlett and the City of Flames ) introduces Yoss, who lives in a mountain village that practices a peculiar coming-of-age ritual: during a boy's 14th summer, he leaves home overnight, returning the next morning having "become a man." Yoss walks down the mountain and keeps going, curious about the wider world. He is set upon by thieves, who steal his food and trick him into robbing a passing merchant. The naïve teen believes he has simply recovered a debt (albeit at knifepoint) and follows Conrad and Gaspar into town, where they fence the goods. Figuring out he's fallen in with the wrong crowd, Yoss then joins a group of conniving beggars, who fake injury and dismemberment to earn coins. The merchant he robbed spies him, but saves him from the gallows by "buying" him and making him his slave. Yoss's innocence stands in marked contrast to the corruption he encounters at every turn, but he's also passive and a bit of a bore. The vicious thief, Conrad, is better drawn, and the subplots about the merchant's loyal servant and his beautiful but barren young wife don't help readers grasp Yoss's motivation or growth. With all the horrors visited upon him, the overwhelming message here is "stay home." Ages 12-up. (Sept.)