Phoenix Revived

Young Adult - Coming of Age
166 Pages
Reviewed on 11/01/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite

In Phoenix Revived by Judy McCluney, classified as young adult reading, we meet a group of teens and parents living in South Phoenix where they must fight prejudice as regards immigration, and the environment as regards oil refineries. These are the big issues that add to the normal challenges of growing up. The protagonist is Sami, who has just moved to the area due to her dad having been transferred there in the Air Force. Sami is a breath of fresh air wherever she goes. She makes friends quickly, is full of energy, and cares about others. She is worried about her future because her parents will not be able to afford her college goal to become a veterinarian. She meets Robby and they become an instant couple, together making a positive force as they fight some strong battles in their spheres.

As an adult reading a young adult novel and as a lifelong teacher, Phoenix Revived is precisely the kind of book I wish youngsters were reading these days instead of books about monsters and dragons. The problems Sami, Robby, and their several friends must face are real ones—career blocks, discrimination, air pollution—yet these kids face them like young knights in shining armor. One of my favorite parts of this book is the song lyrics that pop up throughout. You see, Robbie (Sami’s other half) is an aspiring musician who faces some serious battles to reach his goal. I will buy this book for my grandkids, hoping they will adopt the enduring values of Sami, Robbie, and their compatriots at Kalima High. Phoenix Revived by Judy McCluney is exactly what young readers need these days.

Donna L Miller

With Phoenix Revived, Judy McCluney has written a story about the trials faced by two teens trying to make their way in the world. Although told in a fairly straightforward, realistic fashion, McCluney does apply a richly developed allusion to the Egyptian myth of the phoenix while also setting the story in Arizona.
Uprooted by her dad’s job in the Air Force, Sami has just moved from California to South Phoenix. More than anything, she wishes to fly away to a place of possibility where she hopes to work as a veterinarian. Unable to rely on her parents for monetary support to attend college, Sami feels like she is walking on a tightrope without a safety net.
When Sami transfers to Kalima High School, she meets Robby Blake, another teen who is restricted by his parents, who want him to stay at home after high school and operate Blake Farms. A talented guitarist whose happy place is in music, Robby dreams of a career as a musician.
As both teens wonder if they will have to reject their hopes and plans to favor practicality, they deal with daily challenges: working part-time jobs while juggling school and home responsibilities, building relationships, and navigating social challenges like Mort, the arrogant school bully and his stance against immigrants.
McCluney adds other layers to her novel. With conflicts like Robby’s asthma, she is able to address air pollution and environmental concerns with big corporations who try to take over family farms. With a mental health thread, McCluney leads readers to discover the reason that Robby’s father is so against a career in music for his son. After all, parental precautions are often based in fear.
Ultimately, this is a book about turning one’s passion into a profession. Determined and resilient, Robby and Sami have potential to inspire adolescents to go after their dreams with hard work and persistent dedication.

John H & Donna L Miller"