A good book marred by clumsy trans representation.

THE GREATEST SUPERPOWER

Jorge is about to enter eighth grade when his parents drop a bombshell: They are getting a divorce because his dad is transgender.

Jorge is upset and confused, but his twin brother, Cesar, is furious and refuses to speak to their father. While navigating gender, family, friendship, dating—and Cesar’s bid for student body president—Jorge learns a lesson about having the confidence to be yourself. This heartfelt novel avoids some pitfalls in representation but tumbles straight into others. Sanchez provides a nuanced depiction of navigating race, as readers see how the biracial brothers’ experiences diverge. Their Mexican American father, who says he is still their papa and now goes by Norma, teaches brown-skinned Cesar how to stay safe from the police while White-passing Jorge knows that he’ll never truly understand Cesar’s experience. The cast is diverse; the boys’ best friend is Chinese and Jamaican. However, the author’s depiction of transition is a mixed bag. He takes down a few misconceptions but props up others, offering genuine insight into the family’s feelings while also dedicating far too many words to describing Norma’s big hands, masculine frame, garish makeup, and how she totters comically in her heels and dresses. These harmful stereotypes of trans women are sadly familiar and disappointing in what is otherwise a touching story about a family’s experience with gender transition.

A good book marred by clumsy trans representation. (note to readers) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68446-278-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.

REBOUND

In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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