A transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart—a grandmother’s too.

Elizabeth's Midnight

A socially awkward teenager discovers her true self in this fantasy-laced YA novel.

“Hunted by guardians from another world, hidden puzzles more than sixty years old, an impossible quest. And a beautiful girl in trouble,” says young Frenchman Quince, pretty much summing up the plot of Ritchey’s (Long Live the Suicide King, 2014, etc.) latest novel. The beautiful girl Quince is wooing is Beth, who begins the book thinking she’s ugly and fat and whose sad back story includes betrayal by her best friend and abandonment by her father. Her toxic mother constantly berates her, aligning with her younger sisters (think wicked stepmother and stepsisters, minus the “step”). Beth’s one joy is visiting her grandmother in the nursing home. Grandma May, however, plans to escape the facility and, with Beth’s help, fly to Paris to connect with Prince Phillip, a man she loved and left over six decades ago. But was he a man or, as Grandma explains, royalty from another planet who came to Earth with magic spells to fight the Nazis? Her tales of their adventures are interspersed with troubling senior moments that make Beth wonder whether May is actually senile. Regardless, Beth vows to get her to France. In the process, she outmaneuvers menacing tattooed “painted men” who follow her and May, meets cutie Quince, and decodes clues in Phillip-authored poetry that lead to treasure caches and perhaps to the prince himself. Beth transforms herself along the way from dowdy, insecure Bethie (a nickname she hates), always wearing a big, blue coat that is “her armor,” into the pretty, brave, titular Elizabeth: stylish, standing up to her mother, and falling in love. The story moves quickly, and the relationship between Elizabeth and Quince is flirty fun. Even though Elizabeth’s parents are terribly flawed, Ritchey kindly offers explanations for their behaviors. Scenes featuring Elizabeth’s French friends are especially enjoyable, but the cache (i.e., treasure) hunts can be confusing, and Grandma’s box of items from Phillip deserves a better name than her “special-special.”

A transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart—a grandmother’s too.

Pub Date: May 7, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Black Arrow Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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